Wednesday 25 April 2018

Umbilical Umbrage: A perfect spiced fruit crumble

Co-dependency, dysfunctional games and now some stiff competition in the form of Yer Man. Sophie White thinks that Herself might just be a bit too close for comfort

Rhubarb is a key ingredient in this crumble
Rhubarb is a key ingredient in this crumble

Herself went off on a week's holiday there recently, and 
I was pretty bereft. When 
I was expecting, people kept telling me how having a baby would make me appreciate my mother in ways I could never imagine. How, by becoming a mother myself, I would suddenly realise all that she had done for me when I was just a helpless blob.

When you're preggers, you become a magnet for this kind of unwanted counsel. Other unsolicited comments include: "It's the best thing you'll ever do", and "You may never go out again and, if you do, all you will talk about is the baby." Maybe we're bad parents, 
but we go out frequently, and we regularly don't talk about Yer Man.

Anyway, there I was, lost without her while she was away, but it wasn't because I had just become a mother. We have just always had this intense, claustrophobic relationship, not unlike Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment. OK, maybe it's actually verging more on Grey Gardens territory.

We have at least six phone calls a day, though sometimes I really wish that she didn't have my phone number, and I definitely regret giving her keys to my house. Yet, while she was gone, I went to call her most days and would then get a little umbilical tug of sadness on remembering that I couldn't.

Ours is the kind of relationship where it sometimes seems like the only reasonable and logical outcome to our lifelong love affair is probably going to be a murder-suicide pact. The only difference I see since Yer Man came along, is that now I have to compete for her attention. I get irked when she only has eyes for him. I'm relieved that he is a boy because, had he been born a girl, I would most definitely be out of the picture. As it is, I'm left jumping up and down in the background, pleading, "Look at me, look at me. I'm cute, too."

I miss the days when we would go for lunch together, without the baby in tow, and engage in our favourite dysfunctional game: competitive 
non-eating. This is where I would say: "I'm just going to have a starter", then 
she would expertly return with: "I'll just have the side salad, no dressing."

Then, over a shared dessert, a stand-off would ensue, where each person would take bites of ever-diminishing size.

Eventually, she would say something along the lines of: "Your problem in 
life is that you have no follow-through." I, conceding defeat, would respond by rage-eating the rest of the dessert. She's good. The game is her invention, after all.

My only weapon in this battle of wills is this delicious fruit crumble - when 
I make it, she doesn't stand a chance.

Spiced Fruit Crumble

Serves 6-8.

You will need:

500g (1lb 2oz) rhubarb

Juice of ½ lemon

100g (3½oz) sugar

250g (9oz) frozen berries

110g (3¾oz) flour

150g (5oz) brown sugar

120g (4oz) rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1½ teaspoons ground cardamom

100g (3½oz) cashew nuts

100g (3½oz) desiccated coconut

100g (3½oz) pecan nuts, chopped

150g (5oz) butter, plus 15g (½oz) additional butter for greasing

Vanilla ice cream, to serve


Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Chop the rhubarb into 2cm (½in) lengths and place in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the lemon juice, the sugar and the frozen berries. Stir together to let the berries defrost and the rhubarb soften.

When the berries are fully defrosted, bring the mixture to the boil and allow it to bubble for 5 minutes, stirring gently as you don't want the rhubarb to break down too much. Once the rhubarb is tender, take the saucepan off the heat. Drain off about half of the liquid released from the fruit, then set the fruit aside.

To make the crumble mixture, in a large bowl, combine the flour, the brown sugar, the rolled oats, the ground ginger, the ground cardamom, the cashew nuts, the desiccated coconut and the chopped pecans. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients in the large bowl, and mix well with your hands.

Lightly grease a deep ovenproof dish, roughly 20cm (8in) in diameter. Pour in the stewed rhubarb and berries, and top with the crumble mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the crumble's top is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling up at the edges. Place an oven tray underneath the crumble as it is cooking to catch 
any potential overspill. Allow the crumble to stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

Serve this fragrant, delicious crumble with a good-quality vanilla ice cream.

Sunday Independent

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