Crumble is one of my ultimate comfort foods. And by comfort foods, I mean something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. In the depths of February, this is just the type of food that gives me a big smile and a happy stomach.
For me, it’s also the perfect hygge food. If you haven’t come across the Danish concept of hygge (I’m not sure how you could miss it with the number of lovely books that have come out in the last year!), it’s all about cultivating a feeling of comfort and contentment.
Hygge is so much wider than food, but it’s a good way to think about what ingredients are satisfying and uplifting at this chilly time of the year. It doesn’t really mean filling your face with pies if that’s what you think of as comfort food – sorry! It’s more about ‘elegant sufficiency’ and feeling satisfied, not uncomfortably stuffed. Rather than banning so-called naughty foods, I really love that it includes the balance of a few nice treats if these are things that genuinely make you feel good and happy.
Homemade crumble is definitely one of my happy foods. I used to love it when my mum made apple crumble when I was growing up. She’d leave it sitting on top of the cooker before it went in the oven. I’d sneak into the kitchen and pinch little bits of the buttery, oaty crumb topping. I’d make sure I only took little pieces, and patch it up so that it wasn’t completely obvious that I’d taken a nibble. My mum has a third sense for nibbly children, so I’m sure she must have known what I was up to.
Our version of crumble always had oats in the topping and it was made with melted butter. I still prefer it with oats or something like quinoa or buckwheat flakes now; it adds a bit of texture and crunchiness. I’ve gone a little further for my latest version and have used a delicious fruit & seed muesli.
When it comes to the filling, rhubarb is my personal king of crumble. I like to play around with what’s in season – apple and blackberry is always a good option, or gingery pear with dried cranberries – but it’s rhubarb that I love the most. Maybe this is partly because it’s pretty much the only plant I’ve grown which I’ve managed to get an amazing crop from every year. The first crowns are peaking out from the ground at the moment, so it’s not quite ready, but fortunately this is the season of forced rhubarb.
The bright pink stalks of forced rhubarb are grown in the darkness and are much more tender than the regular type. They’re also noticeably less tart. I haven’t added much sweetness as a touch of maple syrup plus the little bit of sugar in the topping is enough (especially if you’re eating it with a big dollop of cream or creme fraiche). However, you might find you need to add a touch extra maple syrup if you cook your crumble with regular rhubarb.
At this frosty time of the year, a bit of extra spice also helps, so I thought a spicy rhubarb crumble would be a good February option. There’s fresh ginger in with the rhubarb, plus ground ginger and a hint of freshly ground black pepper in the topping. Rhubarb and ginger are brothers in arms when it comes to flavour combinations.
Rhubarb crumble is a such a simple dish to make, but never fails to delight my taste buds. When it’s grey outside, a bright pink bubbling dish with a lightly buttery crumble topping is a lovely pickmeup. When I served this yesterday, I added a spoonful of slightly sour goat’s milk cream, which was really tasty. Other options are organic double cream, natural yoghurt, a little clotted cream, good quality custard or ice cream. Or just eat it as is!
What comfort foods help you get your hygge?
Yumble Spicy Rhubarb Crumble
Serves 2 (double the ingredients for a bigger crumble)
400g forced rhubarb (about 4 stems), chopped into 1 cm pieces
2cm chunk of ginger, skin peeled
1-2 tbspn water (15ml – 30ml)
1 tspn maple syrup (or honey)
50g wholemeal spelt flour
50g butter, broken into small pieces
25g coconut sugar (can substitute with unrefined golden caster sugar)
50g fruit & seed muesli (I used Pertwood Organic Muesli Fruit & Seeds)
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
1 tspn ground ginger
1/4 tspn freshly ground black pepper
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (160° fan oven). Pop the chopped rhubarb in a small saucepan with the water and maple syrup, and put over a medium heat. Grate the ginger over the top and stir everything together. Once it starts a gentle bubble, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. You want the rhubarb to soften a little, but not become completely mushy and still have most of the pieces holding their shape.
2. While the filling is simmering, make the crumble topping. Using your fingertips, rub the spelt flour and butter together so that it forms ‘crumbs’. Add the sugar and gently rub again so that it’s just combined, and do the same with the muesli. Ideally you want a few buttery chunks rather than a smooth mixture. Pour the olive oil over, sprinkle in the ground ginger and pepper, and mix everything together.
3. Take the filling off the heat and spoon it into a small oval dish (I use a small ceramic pie dish). If a lot of liquid has been released, don’t tip it all in the dish as it may bubble over (but don’t throw it out as it makes a tasty drink!). Sprinkle the crumble topping over the rhubarb and very gently pat down. Put the dish in the oven on the bottom shelf and cook for about 25 minutes. The filling should be bubbling and the top nice and golden.
4. Once done, take the crumble out and leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving into your favourite bowl (you don’t want to burn your mouth). If you fancy it, a little scoop of something creamy on top is a nice addition. Breathe in, smile and take your first bite.
Other flavour options:
– add a little fresh chopped ginger to the topping
– sprinkle some pink pepper in with the rhubarb while it’s cooking
– you can leave out the olive oil if you want to; I like the little extra savoury edge it adds
– to make this gluten free, use rice flour instead of spelt flour and a gluten free muesli. You can also use plain oats instead of muesli, but I suggest add a few seeds or nuts for some crunch
– instead of maple syrup, squeeze half an orange or blood orange over the rhubarb
– add a tablespoon of desiccated coconut to the topping
Thanks to Pertwood Farm for sending me the lovely muesli for the topping.
If you’d like explore more flavours with me, and eat them in a way that helps you savour rather than scoff, check out my brand new online programme: The Joy Of Eating