If my memory serves me correctly it was approximately a fortnight ago when someone whispered those most reliable of words ‘hose pipe ban’. Reliable in that you can almost set your watch by the fact the words had barely been uttered, when the first of the dark clouds began to gather on the horizon…April showers indeed, well needed though as there are many a crop and reservoir in dire need of a drink. All of which leads us nicely towards a particularly thirsty, newly acquired allotment, which has come into the lucky and very green fingers of the GF’s mother! It was from this very allotment that the first consignment of fresh fruit and vegetables arrived at our door in the form of some splendid looking rhubarb, I am a huge fan of the stuff, the GF isn’t…for now.
All that was needed was to come up with a simple recipe that would keep the weather at bay, do justice to the rhubarb and convince the GF that there is more to rhubarb than sourness and a screwed up face! I’d almost got her onside with this rhubarb fool recipe, so I was ever hopeful. I toyed with a few ideas, but finally settled on a good heart warming rhubarb and ginger crumble, nothing beats that first spoonful crunching through the sweet topping to reveal the soft yielding tart fruit below, happy childhood crumble memories abound!
Recipe: Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble. Serves 4.
- 1kg rhubarb, chopped.
- 200g caster sugar or enough to address the sourness, you want it just the right side of tart, the topping and ice cream provide the main sweetness of the dish.
- 1/2 a lump of stem ginger, finely chopped.
- 100g plain flour.
- 60g butter, soft and diced.
- 35g light soft brown sugar.
- Pinch of salt.
- Place the rhubarb, ginger and caster sugar in a pan and cook until soft.
- Pour into a suitably sized oven proof dish, set aside.
- In a mixing bowl place the flour, butter and salt.
- Work with just your finger tips until you have a crumb consistency.
- Add the brown sugar, mix through. Chill in fridge for 20 mins.
- Top the rhubarb with the crumble mixture.
- Cook for 30 mins in a pre heated oven at 180c.
The crumble element of this dish has been tweaked many times to get as near to crumble perfection as I dare! There is nothing more disappointing than a topping that is excessively floury in texture and taste, we are after crunchy, buttery, biscuity nuggets of joy.
Also the ginger should be a background warmth, to complement not compete with the rhubarb.
I got high praise from the GF so I must have done something right! Maybe she’s coming round to all things rhubarb after all…
Chocolate is as simple or as complex a subject as you care to make it, from kids chocolate buttons to sculptured works of art, it’s a fascinating ingredient and one that is all too easy to make mistakes with! Now I definitely fall into the chocolate buttons camp. A keep things simple, less to go wrong line of thought has saved many a potential disaster over the years and I see no reason to stray from my well trodden path!
Now chocolate being the emotive, sensual pleasure that it is, it makes it very easy to compare to one of life’s other great gifts..wine. From colour, complexity of flavours, aroma and mouthfeel, to country of provenance and even single estate origins, chocolate and wine are subjects that can delight and bore the pants off in equal measure!
From the cooks point of view, it’s fairly straight forward to tell good from bad. Good chocolate when held against the roof of your mouth will melt smoothly and evenly, be quite bitter, more than likely have prominent fruit flavours and the flavour should linger. Bad chocolate will melt quickly and be sweet due to the high percentage of added fats and sugars and the flavour will quickly fade leaving a greasy feel in the mouth. Not exactly what we’re after, but sometimes in life a bit of rubbish chocolate is better than none at all! N.B. This always applies to wine.
As an ingredient, chocolate goes with a great many things. I’ve struggled to pair it with fish successfully, but I did once see a recipe for turbot and white chocolate risotto! Game is another example, a few choc drops stirred into a red wine jus with hare or venison can work wonders, a tiny bit though, more of a seasoning. It’s desserts where chocolate really comes into its own. Most fruits are great with chocolate, as are nuts, chilli, ginger, coffee, brandy and various liqueurs, the list is endless. By far my personal favourite is salt. Salt brings out flavours in chocolate you never realised were there! Again use sparingly, and ideally good quality sea salt.
Recipe: Dark chocolate and ginger pudding. Serves 2.
- 65g Self raising flour.
- 65g Butter and a little extra for greasing pot(s).
- 40g Dark chocolate. 70% cocoa solids (chopped, melted).
- 40g Dark brown sugar. (black treacle, molasses, Demerara and caster can all be used but the colour and richness will lessen the lighter the sugar).
- 1 Egg.
- 1 Lump of stem ginger (chopped).
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract.
- Tiny pinch of strong coffee granules.
- Pinch of sea salt.
- cocoa powder, for coating pot(s).
- Place chocolate in microwave on defrost setting, melt gently.
- Blitz butter, sugar, vanilla, coffee and ginger in a food processor until smooth (the smoother the butter and sugar is the fluffier the sponge will be).
- Add egg, blitz.
- Add melted chocolate, blitz.
- Add flour, blitz.
- Grease your chosen pot(s) generously with butter, then coat the inside of buttered pot with cocoa powder (this will prevent sticking). Tap out excess.
- Divide chocolate mix equally into pot(s).
- Cover with cling film, leaving enough room at the top for sponge to rise, but ensuring it’s tightly secured around sides to water/steam proof!
- Cover again, this time with tin foil.
- Place pots in oven proof dish and fill the dish 1/2 way up with water. Tightly cover entire dish with tin foil.
- Cook in middle of oven at 175c for 1 1/2hrs.
- Remove from oven and uncover immediately, the sponge is done when its firm but springy to the touch.
Dark Chocolate sauce:
- 1/4 pint Double cream.
- 30g Dark chocolate (chopped,grated or buttons).
- 15g sugar. approx.
- Slowly heat all ingredients in a small pan.
- Stir to combine.
- Pour over pudding!