You know I have to start with the history of the plant, and no it does not originate from the Rhubarb Triangle, but was introduced here by the Romans.
The origins have been traced back to Siberia and China. It came to Europe via The Silk Road many many years ago. Rheum (plant) is said to have been used by the Han People from around 260 BC.
In those times it was grown, and used for medicinal purposes and only the roots (rhizome) were used as a form of Laxative. I shall say no more!
The word ‘Rhubarb’ comes from a French word Rhubarbe and this, in turn comes from a Medieval Latin word Rheubarbarum or Greek word Rha Barboron.
Rha or Rheum comes from the area where it grew wild on the banks of the Volga River and the word Barboron or Barbarum means “foreign”. Put the two words together, over time, plant came to be known as Rhubarb.
Back to the Garden & Kitchen…
Its always nice to start picking your own crop as soon as we can. When I think about it, Rhubarb, is the first vegetable that comes through in Spring after the cold Winter months, and so it is always lovely to pick and cook with these fresh stems as soon as you get them home. Freshly picked stems have a lovely sweet smell and the aroma comes through even more when chopping and dicing it up . But it is not sweet at all, the exact opposite, sour and a little tangy too.
This recipe I share with you is a firm family favourite, using Apple and Raisin to add bulk to the Rhubarb base.
I have used stem ginger in syrup as it gives a subtle spicy note. You could use fresh ginger, but grate it very fine.
500g Bramley Apple (Peeled and Diced)
200g Rhubarb (Diced)
30g Stem Ginger in Syrup (grated of finely diced)
100g Raisins (optional)
1 Orange juice and zest (optional)
100g Light Brown Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Essence
1/4tsp Mixed Spice
(A little) Cornflour
Crumble Topping Ingredients:
100g Cold Unsalted Butter (Diced) + 10g for lining dish
150g Plain Flour
75g Rolled Oats
50g Demerara Sugar
1/4tsp Mixed Spice
- If using: Soak the Raisins in the freshly squeezed orange juice allow to plump up for at least 10-15 mins ( I have, at times, left them to soak for an hour or so).
- Place in a pan all the base ingredients, except for cornflour, ginger and vanilla extract, cook on a gentle heat until the Apple is just on the soft side when pressed with a spoon.
- Now add the ginger and vanilla extract; stir in.
- Add corn flour liquid (mix the flour with a little water) and stir in, this will thicken the liquid slightly. Do not be tempted to add a lot of cornflour, I use less then 1/4 teaspoon. (You do not want a runny base when you serve, it should all hold together).
- Cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat and allow the mixture to get cold completely.
- *The above step is not necessary, if you are pushed for time, you can place in the baking dish and make the crumble straight away.
- I found if mixture is left for a number of hours, it marinates in its own juices giving the base a richer taste.
- To make the topping: sieve the flour into a bowl, add the cubed butter and with your fingers rub the butter into the flour until it resembles a crumble texture.
- Place bowl in the fridge for 15mins, remove and add the rest of the topping ingredients. Mix well.
- Butter the Baking Dish and place the cooked mixture into the dish followed by the topping.
- Bake in a preheated oven 180˙C (350˙F, gas mark 4) for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. *Cooking time will be much less if the cooling down process is omitted.
- Allow to cool a little before serving with either Custard or Ice Cream or just on it own.