Rhubarb Crumble with Star Anise
This easy Rhubarb Crumble is an extremely simple traditional English pudding. What makes this recipe special is the addition of star anise which gives it a wonderful mild aniseed flavour which goes brilliantly with the sweet-sour rhubarb.
In praise of fruit crumble
I am a big fan of fruit crumbles. They are pretty much fool-proof, can use a range of different fruit depending on the season and what is available and, like this one, it is really easy to add a unique flavour twist with a bit of spice. They are also the perfect make-ahead dessert and are very versatile as they can be eaten cold, at room-temperature or hot from the oven. Just add a dollop of custard, cream or ice-cream and you have the perfect warming, comforting pudding.
I make Apple Crumble all year around but, in spring and early summer, Rhubarb Crumble is my favourite. This is largely because I have a very large rhubarb plant in my garden. We inherited it when we moved into our current house and for many years I tried to get rid of it as it is literally in the middle of our main flower bed. Also, at that point, it was not something I particularly wanted to cook or eat. The giant rhubarb plant stubbornly resisted all my attempts to kill it and gradually I gave in and decided to try and cook with it. Now it is one of my favourite ingredients and I actively look forward to rhubarb season. In addition to crumble, I also make lots of other rhubarb recipes including Rhubarb Gin, Rhubarb Fool, Rhubarb Compote, Rhubarb Roulade, Rhubarb Jam and Rhubarb Curd.
Things you need to know about Rhubarb Crumble
As with all crumbles, it is very easy to make. You do not need to cook the rhubarb in advance. You simply wash and cut up the rhubarb stalks and add them to the dish.
A basic Rhubarb Crumble recipe is very simple to make but there are lots of ways that you can make it a bit different.
- In this recipe, I add star anise to provide a bit of flavour enhancement. Other spices that you could add include cardamon (1 teaspoon of ground cardamon powder or 3 cardamon pods), ginger (1 teaspoon of ground ginger) or vanilla (1 teaspoon of vanilla extract).
- Orange is also a great flavour partner to rhubarb so adding the zest and juice of a small orange to the rhubarb pieces is also a great way to enhance your crumble.
- A scattering of almonds (or hazelnuts or pine nuts) on top of the crumble topping is also a very good addition. Add them five minutes before the end of the cooking time so that they will be toasted but not burnt.
What is star anise?
Star anise is a spice, shaped like a five-pointed star, which is made from the fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree Illicium verum. It is one of the most popular spices used in Chinese cooking and provides the dominant flavour in Chinese five spice powder. It is also widely used in Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian dishes. I think the star shaped seed pods are pretty but they are quite large and hard so using ready ground Star Anise powder, or grinding it yourself, is a good option. It adds an aniseed flavour to food and, in addition to rhubarb, is a good flavour partner with roast meat, especially pork and duck and in curries. In fact, it is most widely used in savoury, rather than sweet, recipes.
This easy recipe takes traditional Rhubarb Crumble to a new level with the addition of star anise which provides a subtle aniseed flavour.
- 4 stems of fresh rhubarb
- 6 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon of ground star anise or 3 whole star anise pods
- 175 g butter or vegetable fat
- 350 g plain flour
- 175 g caster sugar
- Flaked almonds
- Set your oven to 180 C, 400 F or Gas Mark 4.
- Wash your rhubarb stems and then cut them into 1 cm lengths.
- Put the rhubarb pieces in a baking dish (20 cm x 28 cm). Sprinkle with caster sugar. You will need approximately one and a half tablespoons of sugar for each rhubarb stem. If you are wary of the sourness of rhubarb, you can add two tablespoons of sugar for each stem.
- If you are using ground star anise sprinkle it over the rhubarb. If you are using whole star anise seedpods add them to the dish. You will get a milder flavour if you are using the whole seedpods. You will also need to let people know that they are there!
- Next make the crumble topping. Put the 350 g flour and 175 g butter (or vegetable fat) in a bowl and “rub in” using your fingers, or use a food processor, until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Then stir in the 175 g of caster sugar.
- Pour the crumble topping on top of the rhubarb.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 35 minutes.
- If you wish, you can sprinkle some flaked almonds on top of the crumble for the final 5 minutes that it is in the oven. They should get brown and toasted (but not burnt) if they are added at this stage.
Keywords: rhubarb, crumble, star anise, dessert, pudding, recipe