Rhubarb is used extensively in Irish cooking and rhubarb crumble is one of the most popular desserts served in Ireland during the spring and summer months.
This truly is comfort food at its finest. It’s not a delicate dish, or a pretty dessert. It’s a bowl full of tart and sweet crumbly goodness, brought to a whole new level of excellence when smothered in sweet and creamy egg custard.
This is a dessert of my Irish childhood, and what I consider to be a taste of Ireland. It’s usually served warm with custard, even in the summer months. Remember, Irish summers are never as warm as American summers, so nobody has a problem eating a hot dessert in June, July and August in the Emerald Isle.
Rhubarb and custard are a heavenly pairing, loved throughout the British Isles.
Rhubarb releases a lot of liquid as it heats. Some cooks like to toss it in corn starch, or cornflour as we say in Ireland, to help absorb the liquid as it cooks. Not me. I like a juicy rhubarb base for this dessert, to soak up into the bottom of the sweet and oaty crumble topping.
This slightly sour and pinkish syrup is what I love most about rhubarb crumble.
Now this isn’t a photo to wow social media. The edges of the crumble go brown and sticky with caramelized rhubarb juice.
I could have taken it out of the oven a little under cooked for this photo shoot, but then I decided it’s better to keep it realistic with that lovely sticky, tangy, rhubarb toffee at the edge of the dish.
In America, rhubarb is often paired with strawberries, but traditional Irish rhubarb crumble uses this delicious vegetable all on its own.
Rhubarb is often referred to as a fruit, but it bears no seeds, so it’s technically a vegetable. I believe it does not get the credit it deserves in America, but in Ireland it is a summer staple in most kitchens.
It’s served stewed over custard, baked into tarts and even served alongside pork.
It grows well in Irish soil. The first rhubarb of the season appears around February, but this is tender, pink, early-season rhubarb that is grown in greenhouses or sheds, away from the harsh winter elements.
Outdoor rhubarb first appears in Irish supermarkets or grocery stores around April. It’s far thicker and hardier than the early tender variety, but it’s the rhubarb of my childhood. So it’s time to let the rhubarb cooking begin.
In the past I’ve shared a delicious apple crumble recipe, but it’s springtime now. So move over fall cooking, let’s give rhubarb a turn to be the star of the show.
And so, without further ado, let’s take a look at how I make rhubarb crumble, Irish style.
Ingredients for Rhubarb Crumble:
Here you’ll find a quick list of what you’ll need for this recipe.
Check out the printable recipe at the bottom of this post for US and Metric equivalent versions of the recipe. There you can choose the measurement system that works best for you.
Here’s what you’ll need to make Irish style rhubarb crumble with a flour and oat topping.
- white sugar
- rolled oats
- brown sugar
Directions for Rhubarb Crumble:
Here you’ll find step-by-step photographic instructions to help you recreate this recipe successfully. There are plenty of tips included along the way. Plus the essential steps are highlighted in bold.
First let’s prepare a baking dish.
Use a little butter to grease a 2 quart size casserole.
I love to use this enamelware dish from Ireland. It reminds me of the casserole dishes my granny used when making a crumble. For those using the metric system this is a 2 litre size baking dish or pie dish.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, let’s prepare the rhubarb.
Trim the tops and bottoms off the rhubarb stalks and discard them.
Then chop the rhubarb into 1 inch pieces.
Next, I like to par boil the rhubarb to start the cooking process.
Add the rhubarb to a large saucepan together with the sugar and the water.
Only a small amount of water is required to start the rhubarb cooking process. Plenty rhubarb juice will be released as the rhubarb heats up and gets tender.
Bring the rhubarb to a simmer and cook it for 8 to 10 minutes.
The rhubarb is ready when it’s starting to get tender, but not falling apart. The amount of juice in your rhubarb will determine exactly how long is required for this par-boiling stage.
While the rhubarb is simmering prepare the crumble topping.
Add the flour, oats, brown sugar and cubed butter to a large mixing bowl.
Use a pastry cutter or the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, oats and sugar.
This quickly forms a lovely crumbly topping.
Toss the partially cooked rhubarb into the prepared casserole.
Add all the juice that has been released during the simmering process.
Next, top the rhubarb filling with the crumbly oat topping.
Use the back of a spoon to flatten the crumble to completely cover the rhubarb layer.
For Irish crumble desserts the filling is completely covered with the crumbly topping, unlike American cobblers where the topping can be intermittently spaced over the filling to allow the fruit layer to be seen.
Bake it in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Cool slightly before serving.
The rhubarb juice will be very hot, so don’t serve it too quickly or you’ll burn your tongue.
Serve warm, making sure each serving has plenty rhubarb and crumble.
And don’t forget the custard. In my book it’s the absolutely perfect pairing for crumble.
If you don’t have ready made custard and don’t feel like making it from scratch, this dessert is also delicious with a dollop of ice cream, or whipped heavy cream. I’ve even been known to eat a bowl or two with no custard or cream – that’s my skinny bowl of crumble (I don’t think such a thing exists.)
Here’s the printable recipe.
For the Crumble
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1¼ cups rolled oats Irish oatmeal if available
- 4 ounces butter
For the Rhubarb Base
- 8 stalks rhubarb washed, trimmed and chopped - 4 cups or 1 pound chopped.
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger optional
- Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Lightly grease a 2 quart (2 liter) ovenproof pie dish, Pyrex bowl or casserole dish with butter.
- Add the chopped rhubarb, sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes until the rhubarb starts to soften, but does not lose its shape. Add the ground ginger if desired and stir.
- While the rhubarb is simmering, make the crumble. Add the flour, light brown sugar and oats into a bowl. Add the butter and using your finger tips rub the butter into the dry ingredients.
- Transfer the partially cooked rhubarb to the greased pie dish.
- Evenly spread the crumble mixture over rhubarb base.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until the top is golden golden brown.
- Serve with hot egg custard, freshly whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
I hope you enjoy this little taste of Ireland.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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