May 16, 2013


When I was a little girl I adored rhubarb.  (I still do.)  My parents had two huge rhubarb patches at the top of their garden, one either side of the home-made greenhouse.  We had rhubarb pie or crumble every Sunday from May until August.  The rest of the year we had apple pie or crumble made from windfall apples or Bramleys bought from the shop, if they were in season – although every so often my mum would make a steamed pudding, usually ginger or golden syrup – she also made a lovely steamed apple dumpling from a suet pastry case filled with apples in a pudding basin. 

rhubarb crumble1Rhubarb and strawberry crumble. 

In late summer our apple pies and crumbles would be enhanced by blackberries from the local hedgerows and occasionally bilberries picked from the moors above Baslow in Derbyshire.  My grandmother had a damson tree and my aunt had some raspberry canes and we would benefit from the annual glut of fruit, but my mother rarely made anything other than a pie or a crumble.  Crumble was favourite.

My mother’s rhubarb crumble was a simple affair.  The rhubarb would be peeled and chopped into large chunks, straight into the baking dish, and a good few spoonfuls of sugar sprinkled over.  The crumble would be made with self-raising flour and margarine, rubbed in by hand.  She never baked with butter, thinking it far too extravagant – except maybe for the Christmas cake.  Pastry was always made with lard.

I always used to make my crumbles the same way as Mum, but as time has gone by they have evolved into something slightly more fancy.  I discovered how well rhubarb goes with strawberries in a friend’s blog and somewhere else I read that including oats or ground almonds in the crumble mix can be nice.  And so it goes on, the continuous evolution of baking skills, constantly improving on the already perfect.


rhubarb crumble cake

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a recipe for this pudding on the Good Food website and was compelled to have a go.  The combination of so many comfort food favourites in one dish just had to be tried – a pastry base, rhubarb and egg custard in the middle and a crumble topping.

The recipe had a lot of good reviews and I took note of the comments that said the quantity of topping in the recipe was not enough and most people doubled it.  It worked well and turned out lovely. 

I will definitely make it again BUT I think that next time I will make it in a smaller diameter tin, which will make the custard deeper and then the original quantity of topping should be enough.  If you fancy having a go you can see the recipe on the Good Food website here.

I really like the method used for part cooking the fruit and used it the next time I made a crumble.


rhubarb crumble2 rhubarb crumble3

A crumble has to be one of the easiest puddings to throw together but it is always a favourite in our house.  And everywhere in fact.  If it’s on the menu in a pub or restaurant it always sells well and even the French have adopted it as a dessert – pronounced “cramble” – it’s amazing how often it’s on the fancy menus in France.

Here’s how I made my crumble ~ the ingredients are in ounces as that is how I have always remembered it, having learned the basics from my mum.

rhubarb crumble4 Ingredients

8ozs SR flour

4ozs hard butter or margarine, cut into cubes or chunks

4ozs granulated sugar

2ozs porridge oats

3-4 sticks of rhubarb, probably about 1lb in weight.

a handful of strawberries

a sprinkling of flaked almonds (optional)


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a suitable baking dish.

Trim and wipe the rhubarb, cut into 1” pieces and put them into a frying pan with half of the sugar.  Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has melted and the fruit begins to soften.  Remove from the heat.

Put the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs (or rub together by hand).  Stir in the oats and the other half of the sugar.

Tip the rhubarb and any liquid into the prepared dish.  Remove the stalks from the strawberries, cut any large ones in half and scatter over the rhubarb. 

Spread the crumble mixture over the fruit and give the dish a little shake to level the top.  Scatter the flaked almonds on top if using and bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden and the fruit bubbling around the edges.

Serves 6.


  1. I bought some enormous stalks of rhubarb yesterday at Loches market from the market gardeners from Beaulieu-les-Loches. I commented to them that they were huge and she told me it was a particular variety. I definitely feel a crumble coming on. Like you, I add oats and nuts these days. I like to make a quadruple batch of crumble topping and keep it in a jar in the fridge. That way you can make crumble before your hat has even dropped, and in big or small dishes as the whim takes you or to match the quantity of fruit you have.

    1. That's a good idea, Susan.
      Crumble mix also freezes well and can be used almost straight from the freezer as it is thawed enough by the time you have chopped the rhubarb, peeled the apples or stoned the plums.

  2. Oh I LOVE rhubarb. We have loads in the garden and the allotment at the moment. The kids keep eating it all up for breakfast (just stewed in orange juice with some sugar, but if I manage to keep hold of some, that cake looks very good indeed. Loved your childhood pudding memories too - mine are very similar!

  3. I love rhubarb , too. My favourite yogurt flavour is rhubarb.
    Last week i was walking along the lane to our house (in the UK) and happened on a big bag of rhubarb left at the end odf the lane with a note saying help yourself. I did.... to the whole bag!

    I always add oats/nuts/almonds to a crumble topping. In fact last weekend i made a 'crumble' by adding some Jordans cereal and crumbled amaretti biscuits to the top. It was a very lazy crumble, but delicious.

    We have a patch at LeP-P and my plan is to make some rhubarb and strawberry jam.

    1. Gaynor, that topping sounds delish!
      We don't eat Jordan's cereal but I do have some amaretti biscuits so I will try it next time. Thanks for the tip!