April 27, 2004
On Sunday, we were invited to my sister Céline's place for lunch with my parents, and I offered to take care of the dessert. With the beautiful spring weather we've had lately, I felt like making something light and fruit-based. Rhubarb season has just begun and we are all big fans in my family, so that was the fruit of choice.
I looked around the web, and read good reviews about Nigella's rhubarb grunt. It sounded easy-breezy (but that's hardly unusual for Nigella's recipes) so I set my heart on it. I had never heard of grunts before, so I did a little research, and found out that it is a traditional dessert from New England, in which fruit is covered with lumps of dough, and cooked on the stove (the more traditional way) or in the oven. Grunts also go by the name of slumps or bucklers, and are close cousins of the cobbler. As the dessert cooks, the dough dumplings "slump" or "buckle", and some say you can hear the fruit "grunt" as the air escapes. Or maybe it's the eaters who grunt with pleasure, that part is none too clear.
I made a few modifications to Nigella's recipe, adding raspberries, lowering the sugar (I like my rhubarb to be tart) and butter content, and subbing whole wheat flour for part of the regular flour. I wasn't sure what whipped double cream was, so I just beat my crème fraîche with a whisk before adding it in. Not much though, for I have no patience and little strength.
My sister is starting to really get into cooking, and this couldn't make me happier. In her previous apartments she had very little kitchen space to play around in (and I do mean very little kitchen space), but her new apartment boasts a kitchen of much more reasonable size, in which she has room to spread her wings. It seems that my enthusiasm is pretty infectious and we find ourselves in more and more conversations about kitchen apparel, menu planning, recipes and food shopping. I love explaining and helping and sharing so much, that it is a real joy for me to get calls from my sister or my friends, asking about a dish or a technique : I get all excited and probably give way too much information, but it seems to help anyway because they come back with reports of success and more requests!
On this particular sunny day, Céline had baked delicious mini crustless quiches in her new silicon mold. She served them warm, as an appetizer, while we toasted with Champagne. As a main course we had oven-baked fish fillets on a bed of Provencal vegetables (onions, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers), cooked to perfection and very tasty. The living-room was drenched in light, the white wine my father had brought was excellent, a light breeze was blowing in from the large windows which look out onto a park -- exactly my idea of a very happy Sunday lunch.
We went on to eat the raspberry rhubarb grunt, which I had put back in the oven (still warm but turned off) while we ate the main dish, and we all enjoyed it very much. Rhubarb and berries are always a delightful pairing both in taste and looks, the rhubarb's delicate pink hues being brought out by the bolder berry colors. The scone-like topping cooks in the steam generated by the fruit, and this makes for a great consistency, soft and moist from the fruit underneath, golden and crispy on top.
Raspberry Rhubarb Grunt
- 800 g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into half-inch chunks (about 1kg untrimmed, about six large stalks)
- 200 g raspberries, fresh or frozen
- 100 g brown sugar
- 20 g butter
- 100 g plain flour
- 50 g whole wheat flour
- 30 g brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 250 ml crème fraîche (double cream), whipped
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), and grease a shallow ovenproof dish (20 by 30 cm).
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Gently fold in the crème fraîche, until the dough forms a sticky ball. Drop the dough by spoonfuls on top of the filling, covering the surface evenly, otherwise people will fight for the spots which have the most.
Put into the oven to bake for about 45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is lightly golden.
Serve warm, and have some sugar on the table for each guest to adjust the sweet/tart ratio to their taste. This is excellent on its own, but it would also be nice to serve it with ice-cream or custard.
Rhubarb Tart with Lemon Verbena