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Rhubarb Crumble

How to Eatfrom How to Eat
Nigella Lawson
A former restaurant critic for the Spectator, current food columnist for British Vogue, a Booker Prize judge, a sidekick of Nigel Stalter, and beautiful too. Could we be more jealous? Subtitled The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, Lawson gives us plenty to digest for the brain as well as the stomach. With chapters covering cooking in advance, feeding small children, small quantity and low-fat cooking, she has hit upon all the flash points for today's busy lives. Rather idiosyncratic photos. $70.00.

I can't say I don't ever use machinery to make crumble, but there is something perculiarly relaxing about rubbing the cool, smooth butter through the cool, smooth flour with your fingers: it also makes for a more gratifyingly nubbly crumble; the processor can make the crumbs to fine you end up, when cooked, with a cakey rather than crumbly texture. So just remember, if you aren't making this by hand, to go cautiously.

In this case, the texture is improved by a quick blast in the deep-freeze; but rather than freezing the flour and butter mixture just before working on it, as with the pastry recipes above, I plonk it in for 10 minutes or so after it's been rubbed together. And if you want you can just leave it in the deep freeze, in an airtight container, on standby for when you get home from work and want to make something sweet and comforting quickly.

I find this mixture makes enough to cover 750g fruit in a 1-litre pie dish, which should easily be enough to feed 4-6 people. To make plain apple crumble (though see the recipe on page 174), peel, core and segment the apples and toss them for a minute or two in a pan, on the heat, with 1 tablespoon of butter, 3-4 tablespoons of sugar (to taste) and a good squeeze of orange juice, before transferring them to the pie dish and topping with the crumble. In fact I use orange with most fruits: it seems to bring out their flavour rather than striking an intrusive note of its own. Make a blueberry or blackberry crumble by tossing the fruit in a buttered pie dish with 1 tablespoon each of flour and sugar for the blueberries, 2 each for the blackberries, and the juice of 1/2 orange. For rhubarb crumble, trim 1kg of the fruit, cut it into 5 cm lengths and toss, again in a buttered dish, with a couple of tablespoons each of caster and light muscovado sugar (or more to taste), the zest of one orange and the merest spritz of the juice.

Add spices -- ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, even a pinch of ground cardamon as you like to the crumble recipe below; treat it merely as a blueprint.

120g self-raising flour (though see below)
90g butter, cold and diced into about 1 cm cubes
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar (and see below)

Put the flour in a bowl with a pinch of salt. I tend to use self-raising flour for crumbles simple because (to save on cupboard space) the only plain flour I keep in the house is Italian 00 and its qualities are just not required here. Add the cold cubes of butter and, using the tips of your fingers -- index and middle flutteringly stroking the fleshy pads of your thumbs -- rub it into the flour. Stop when you have a mixture that resembles porridge oats. Stir in the sugar (I love the combination of muscovado and vanilla sugars, but if you haven't got round to making vanilla sugar yet (and see page 82) then don't worry about what white sugar you use: any will do.
Keep the mixture in the fridge until you eed it or put the bowl, as it is, in the freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat the over to gas mark 5/190 degrees Centigrade and when ready to cook sprinkle the crumble over the prepared fruit in the pie dish and cook for 25-30 minutes.

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