Things have been pretty quiet around here, I know. Somehow I’ve gone from welcoming the gentle glow of vernal sun (and the accompanying bare-legs excitement) to being swept up in the full madwoman whirlwind of spring, that violent spring gale that wrecks all the plants in the garden yet still manages to toss me home at the end of the day*.
And now it’s November, and strawberries have come down in price, the days are long and the air is warm. But. I swam in the sea on Saturday (okay, so it was in sunny Gisborne, and the water was still cold, but still), got a sunburn and some deep-crimson cherry tomatoes to match. Despite the frequent moody-teenager squalls that seem to spring upon us without warning, it’s starting to feel like we can almost touch summer.
I love pies at any time of year but it’s really late spring and summertime that I love them the best: buttery crusts bursting with the ripe colours and bright juices of berries and stonefruit. And what better way to usher in the pies of summer than with the first fresh fruits of spring?
The first time I tasted this strawberry-rhubarb combination was as a kid at some suburban street party or maybe a potluck dinner somewhere in my neighbourhood, in the fading late-evening light at the end of May or early June. Grass was green and high, fireflies were just about starting to blink, someone was passing around a baking dish full of strawberry-rhubarb crumble. I remember first trying to pick out the rhubarb – unfamiliar to me then, even though it grew in our garden – then eventually realising it all tasted too good to leave behind, scraping the last pink blush of fruit off the paper plate, and seeking out seconds. Too good.
This pie, I guess, is a sort of homage to those long nights of late spring, full of anticipation for the summer ahead. Also I just really like strawberries and rhubarb together, and I really like pies, and my heart goes a little bit fluttery at the mention of crumble topping.
*literally – got tossed off my bike today and then nearly swept off my feet. Serious business, this wind.
STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB CRUMBLE PIE
For the crust:
(I’ve adapted this recipe to include wholemeal flour, just because that’s what I had at the time. Feel free to play around with flour ratios/combinations or just make the original – it’s become my go-to pie crust.)
1 1/8c flour (I used half white, half wholemeal)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 c butter (roughly 110g), chilled and chopped into little pieces
3-4 tbsp ice cold water, as needed
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub in the butter between finger and thumb until it’s mixed into the flour and forms coarse crumbly pea-sized clumps. Sprinkle some of the ice water over the mixture and combine, adding more water or flour as needed until the dough comes together nicely when you try to form it into a ball. Flatten, wrap in plastic wrap, chill for a bit. 30 minutes or so should be good.
Meanwhile, get the filling ready:
Chop up 1 bunch (roughly 300g) rhubarb and halve about 300g strawberries. Place in a medium to large bowl and toss with a couple tablespoonsful of sugar and a teaspoon or so of cornflour. Let it macerate while you prepare the crust:
Blind bake the crust:
Heat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the chilled pie-crust dough so that it’s big enough to drape into a pie dish and have little edge pieces flopping over the side. Roll over and pinch together the excess bits of pastry to make a nice crust. If it’s a bit uneven just press it all down with the tines of a fork and call it rustic.
Prick some holes in the dough with a fork. Line with baking paper and some dried beans and blind bake for about 10-12 minutes or until it’s just starting to turn golden. Remove and let cool for a few minutes.
Prepare the crumble topping:
Using your fingertips or a food processor, mix together 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 60g butter (chopped up into little pieces makes this easier) until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.
Pour the fruit mixture into the pie shell and top with the crumble topping. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the fruit mixture is bubbling up beneath the bits of crumble. You may want to check that the crust isn’t burning – if it’s starting to get rather brown, cover with bits of foil.
Serve lovingly, with yoghurt, cream or – my favourite – a good-quality vanilla ice cream.