Summer scented rhubarb crumble

First published June 2015

June offers an abundance of choice in the culinary calendar. The year has already given us an extended opportunity to try the grassy stems of asparagus, and early British strawberries have begun hitting market stalls right on cue. This month also brings free food options with nettle tops, dandelion leaves and elderflower ripe for picking.

With brands like Bottlegreen and Belvoir introducing the floral sweetness of elderflower to the national consciousness it still surprises me how few of us utilise this delightful flower in our home cookery repertoire. Celebrity chefs annually share their recipes for home made  cordial and you will find my preferred Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe on his website.

If you don’t have time to harvest a bag full of blossoms and devote a couple of days to create your own cordial don’t despair. Just three or four of these scented blossoms can always be used to add a top note to your every day baking. This month I share a few tips for harvesting and preparation along with a quick summer rhubarb crumble recipe where you can put the flowers to good use.

Tips for harvesting

  • Elderflower should be picked on a warm, dry day as the scent is lost in particularly damp weather.
  • Look for open, full blossoms covered in creamy coloured pollen. The bigger the flower heads the better.
  • Never wash your elderflower. Pick over for insects but remember not to shake too hard or you will also lose all of the flavour giving pollen. For this reason I try to make sure that I don’t collect flowers from the roadside.
  • The stalks can be toxic so be careful to snip the tiny flowers off close to the petal base.

Rhubarb and Elderflower Crumble

  • 500g rhubarb (approx 4 full stalks)
  • 70ml water
  • 3 -4 heads of elderflower
  • 4 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 150g wholemeal self raising flour
  • 50g rolled oats
  • 100g butter
  • 50g caster sugar

Trim and chop your rhubarb into pieces around an inch long. Place into a pan with the water and three teaspoons of caster sugar. Bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cover with a lid.

As the fruit cooks prepare the elderflower. Using a pair of scissors snip off the tiny flowers into a saucer, catching all the pollen too. Tip all the flowers and pollen into the pan with the rhubarb and replace the lid. Continue to simmer for about ten minutes or until the stems are just cooked through.

Combine the flour and oats and rub in the butter to a breadcrumb texture. Stir in the 50g of caster sugar. Spoon the rhubarb into a shallow oven proof dish and pour over any residual syrup from the pan as this will be infused with the scent of the blossom. If you don’t like your puddings too tart then sprinkle on the remaining  teaspoon of sugar before topping with as much of the crumble mixture as you wish.

Bake for around thirty minutes at 160C /Gas Mark 4

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