On Sunday, my parents and I were invited to lunch at my sister Céline’s, and I offered to bring dessert. With the beautiful spring weather we’ve been having, 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 of Nigella‘s rhubarb grunt. It sounded easy (hardly unusual for a Nigella recipe) so I set my heart on it. I had never heard of grunts before, so I did a little research, and found out that they are a traditional dessert from Ireland, Newfoundland and 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 substituting 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.
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.
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 my enthusiasm is 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 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 molds. 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 sunlight, 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 — precisely my idea of a happy Sunday lunch.
We went on to eat the raspberry rhubarb grunt, which I had returned the still-warm (but turned off) oven as we ate the main dish, and we all enjoyed it very much. Rhubarb and berries are always a delightful pairing, 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.
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- 800 grams (1 3/4 pounds) trimmed rhubarb, sliced into half-inch chunks (about 1 kg or 2.2 lb untrimmed, about six large stalks)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) raspberries, fresh or frozen
- 100 grams (1/2 cup) unrefined cane sugar
- 20 grams (4 teaspoons) butter, cut into shavings
- 100 grams (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 50 grams (1/3 cup) whole wheat flour
- 30 grams (2 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 240 ml (1 cup) crème fraîche or whipping cream, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), and grease a medium baking dish (mine is 20 by 30 cm, or 8 by 12 inches).
- Arrange the rhubarb at the bottom of the dish.
- Cover with the raspberries, and sprinkle with the 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar. Dot with the butter shavings.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Fold in the cream, and combine until the dough forms a sticky ball.
- Drop by the spoonful over the filling, covering the surface evenly, otherwise people will fight for the spots that have the most.
- Put into the oven to bake for 45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is lightly golden.
- Serve warm, with extra sugar on the side for each guest to add if the rhubarb is a bit tart for their taste. This is excellent on its own, but could also be served with vanilla ice cream or a custard sauce.