Sweet strawberries have a faithful companion in tart rhubarb. They’re often called the first two fruits of spring, although rhubarb is strictly speaking a vegetable. Rhubarb was introduced to America by Benjamin Franklin and was commonly called pie plant, supposedly because of its use in pies. Here it joins strawberries in a crumble – humbler than pie, and even easier!
1 lb. strawberries, hulled, and halved if small or cut in chunks if large
10 oz. rhubarb, cut into ½ (half) inch pieces
1/3 (third) cup sugar (more if you have a sweet tooth)
pinch of salt
¼ (quarter) tsp. vanilla essence
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 (half) tsp. unsalted butter
For the crumble:
1 ¼ (one and a quarter) cups flour
4 Tbs. sugar
1/2 (half) tsp salt
8 Tbs cold butter (1 stick)
For the crumble: sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Cut butter into small pieces; toss them into the bowl as you go, to coat in flour. Rub butter into flour, feathering the mixture between your fingertips, until the mixture looks like coarse, clumpy sand. Chill if not using immediately.
For the fruit: Slice strawberries and rhubarb to make 6 cups cut-up fruit, proportionately rather more strawberry than rhubarb. Mix with sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Let macerate for 5 minutes or until juices start running. Sprinkle in cornstarch and stir through fruit. Lightly butter an ovenproof dish that will hold the fruit with room for the topping. (We used an 8” x 8” Pyrex dish, approx. 2-qt. capacity, available at Eastman’s Hardware Store.) Tip fruit into dish, level it, and strew over crumble, starting at edges and making sure all the fruit is covered. (Even then juices will bubble up, so if you worry about spills, set dish on protective foil or a baking tray.)
Slide dish into a preheated 375 F oven for 35-40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and crumble is the color of Scottish shortbread. Serve warm (not straight from the oven) spooning the crumble into bowls with a scoop of ice-cream, or some home-made egg custard or a dribble of cold cream. Leftovers at breakfast aren’t bad either! Serves 4-6.