One of the things that Todmorden is famous for is Incredible Edible, a group of local people who have started something of a revolution, growing food in public places in & around the town centre.
There are vegetables outside the police station and local community college, herbs along the canal tow-path and in the train station and an apothecary garden in the grounds of the health centre.
Everything is free for anyone to come along and help themselves – or even do a little weeding and clearing if the fancy takes them!
The train station is on one of our daily dog-walking routes and it’s been lovely watching the progress of the peas, red onions, chives and the like.
This week, along with the dog, I left the house with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag and cut a few stems of rhubarb – to use in a rhubarb and custard tart.
Rhubarb & custard is a classic British combination as is baked custard tart. I’ve put them together and come up with a delicious dessert.
I used the same pastry recipe as last week’s pear tart and made sure to add a tad more sugar than normal to the custard recipe… and a tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder.
The sweetness of the custard and the tartness of the rhubarb worked incredibly well – I’ll be making this one again before the end of the rhubarb season.
In a recent post, we mentioned that Justin wasn’t a massive fan of fruit crumble – there was utter disbelief amongst some of our readers! We’ve talked through it over recent weeks – it’s good to get things out in the open. To be precise, he doesn’t like a soggy zone between the fruit & browned topping. The merest hint of uncooked, wet flour and there’s real distress.
Now we’ve identified the true cause of his phobia, we’ve been able to work through it together (with the help of a crumble counsellor) and have experimented with different methods. We don’t add any water to the fruit or pre-cook it any more – and top with thinner layers of crumble mix to produce crispy, crunchy perfection. There’s no stopping him now – strawberry, pear, plum – bring it on!
So, for this week’s Cakes & Bakes we’ve got a crumble – rhubarb, apple & cardamom crumble.
The cardamom adds a distinctive and really interesting twist…
…and chopped almonds in the topping also worked well.
So, the only decision left to make – custard, cream or ice cream. It was a custard kind of day for us!!
Second helpings for Justin – we really have moved forward from those dark, crumble-free years!
Pin the recipe for later!
We have a rhubarb plant growing in a dolly tub our garden that hasn’t done at all well this year. The stalks normally stand tall and to attention but they seem to have lost their va va voom. They’re thin and bendy from the weight of their huge leaves. I decided to chop them all down today in the hope that they’d revive with more vigour next year.
We also still have an ice cream tub full of frozen blackberries that we picked late last summer. We kept some back when we did our jam & jelly making to use in compotes, crumbles etc. Ripening fruits are already in evidence on this year’s bushes so I thought I’d clear out the freezer in readiness for the new crop.
I found and adapted a rhubarb, blueberry and strawberry shortcake pie recipe found in Pie: Delicious sweet and savoury pies and pastries from steak and onion pie to pecan tart by Dean Brettschneider. It’s very much like a cobbler and is delicious hot or cold with vanilla ice cream, cream or – my favourite – a dollop of Rodda’s classic Cornish clotted cream!
Cakes & Bakes: Rhubarb and berry shortcake pie
- For the shortbread
- 125g butter, softened & cubed
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 225g plain flour
- 25g cornflour
- 1tsp baking powder
- For the filling
- 3–4 stalks rhubarb
- 3tbsp Demerara sugar
- 250g fresh or frozen blackberries
- 125g fresh or frozen blueberries
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Line a shallow 20–22cm round cake tin or flan dish with baking/parchment paper
- Put the cubed butter and caster sugar into a medium mixing bowl and, using a hand-held electric whisk, combine until light and fluffy
- Add the egg before sifting in the flour, cornflour and baking powder. Combine until just mixed
- Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the tin/dish
- Set aside the remainder of the dough, covering it with cling film
- Trim & slice the rhubarb before putting it into a large, non-stick frying pan
- Sprinkle over the Demerara sugar
- Put the pan over a low heat shaking the pan occasionally, until fruit is almost tender
- Add the blackberries & blueberries to the rhubarb, gently mix for a few seconds before turning off the heat and allowing the fruit to cool
- Spread the lukewarm fruit over the shortbread base before carefully dabbing pinches of the leftover dough over the top, allowing a little of the fruit to peep through
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the shortcake top turns golden brown
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack and then onto a serving plate
- Sprinkle with icing sugar, slice and serve!
This year we decided to grow more of our own – and we’ve got no excuse, as Todmorden‘s the home of Incredible Edible.
We have a variety of crops to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Most of them are growing in containers as much of our garden is paved with stone cobbles. It also makes protecting them from the ubiquitous slugs & snails much easier.
We use lots of the old galvanised metal ‘dolly tubs’, buckets and bins.
The plants seem to like it!
Potatoes, beetroot, carrots, tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, broccoli, courgettes, squash, peashoots, salad leaves, a variety of herbs – and yes, those are figs.
There’s still a little room for some flowers.
Perennials like the hostas, astilbes and lupins return each year like old friends. Although this year’s harsh winter saw a few losses.
To these we add a few annuals – osteospermums, lobelia and the like.
We’ve enjoyed working in the garden this year. We don’t think self-sufficiency is here just yet – but hopefully we’ll reap some rewards!