Spring Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble
At the end of last March, when restrictions had not yet begun to wane, and the buds had only just started to peek through, I went back to the old house on the outskirts of Frankfurt where my parents live, and stayed. It was a quiet spring, a spring of long walks and unplanned afternoons- more than anything, the silence and speed heightened my perception of the turn of the seasons. After a winter in which my chief food-related excitements had been semi-regular pilgrimages to M&S in the hopes of imported Spanish persimmons, spring and early summer produce, and a reminder of the German emphasis placed upon eating with the seasons, was an unanticipated de- light. One of my biggest discoveries around this time was a love for the versatility of rhubarb, fresh stalks of which began to occupy a choice place at the entry of most markets, arranged beside trays of ripe strawberries.
I’ve experimented with rhubarb in muffins, cakes, and the like, but this oat crumble, which comes together with just a little hands-on time, has proven a simple and winning favourite. So, naturally, it’s the recipe I’ve chosen to share in anticipation of rhubarb’s imminent return, ideal for a dessert-y weekend breakfast or alongside a coffee in the afternoon. This is an extremely flexible recipe, and though it highlights spring rhubarb, strawberries and rhubarb can both be adapted along with the changing seasons. Replace tangy rhubarb with cherries paired with ripe stone fruit later in the summer, or substitute apples, pears, and blackberries into the crumble in early fall. Raspberries also go remarkably well with rhubarb, if you’re partial to a tarter combination.
The base recipe is both vegan and gluten free, but I’ve included possibilities for variations along the way to be more accessible depending on what you have in your pantry. Spic- es are also an ideal opportunity for experimentation, and can be adjust- ed to your taste. Though really ripe, fresh fruit works best in this recipe, frozen strawberries defrosted to room temperature (this can be done in a bowl or colander over the sink to minimise drippage) produce a similarly delightful result. Not only is it much more affordable on a student budget, but frozen berries are often a safer bet considering the window in which they are even remotely locally grown in the UK is so comparatively narrow. Of course, eating and shop- ping more in accordance with local, seasonal produce is an excellent ultimate goal, but strategic purchases are key. If you’re looking for an excuse to usher in spring, or simply to conjure up a weekend treat as the days get longer, read on, and enjoy!
Filling: 450g strawberries
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into 2 cm thick pieces
20g/ 1⁄2 cup liquid sweetener of your choice, I use a mix of agave and maple syrup 2 teaspoons cornflour
2 teaspoons lemon juice The zest of one lemon 1 teaspoon vanilla extract A pinch of salt (I opt for flaky salt, which, surprisingly, complements most sweets quite well) 4 tablespoons chia seeds (not essential, but a nice addition)
Oat crumble: 80g/ 1 cup thick cut or rolled oats 1 cup almond, oat, or plain flour 3 tablespoons agave or maple syrup 72 grams/ 1⁄3 cup oil (melted coconut oil, olive oil, or melted margarine/butter all work well here) 1⁄2 teaspoon salt 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Directions: Preheat oven to 175 Celsius. Slice washed fresh strawberries or defrosted strawberries in quarter, or bite sized, pieces, and combine in a large bowl with chopped rhubarb sections. Add sweetener, cornflour, lemon juice and zest, vanilla, salt, and chia seeds if using. Mix well, and pour fill- ing into an oiled baking dish or pan. Measure crumble ingredients into a medium bowl, ensuring that the mixture is thoroughly combined. It should be a cohesive mixture, but not too sticky. Crumble the oat mixture evenly across the top of the fruit, without pressing down. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and slightly bubbly around the edges. This keeps well for a few days, but is really best served still warm with a bit of yoghurt, cream, or just as is.