Rhubarb and Apple Crumble with Chai Custard

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This is a dessert of good intention. Minimal sugar, a notable absence of gluten and butter and a myriad of things that are supposed to make your body appreciative of your choices. For all intents and purposes you even could eat it for breakfast and carry on your day without any niggling feelings of misconduct. And indeed, a very good breakfast it would make. After all, it’s almost just like tweaking the proportions of the traditional bowl of poached fruit and granola. The chai custard, on the other hand, holds no such mixed allegiances. It does in fact fall firmly into the dessert category and makes no apologies for it. So if, like myself, you’ve spent weeks abroad inhaling hazelnut cream filled brioche and warm cookies with milk and all manners of bahn mi and are trying to appease both your arteries and your stubborn inner child that demands something sweet following her obligatory vegetables, this just may be the pudding for you. Make no mistake, what this crumble lacks in refined grains it makes up for in mellow  creaminess and reassuring spices. It’s excellent on a cold night, though incidentally, I’ve discovered that it’s equally esteemed as a cold snack.

Apple and Rhubarb Crumble

Fruity bit

A bunch of rhubarb, chopped
Three to four apples, chopped. You can throw in a pear or two, if you like. I did
A tablespoon of honey
A very scant quarter cup of water
A cinnamon stick
The seeds of half a vanilla bean pod

In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb and apples with the cinnamon stick and water until slightly softened, but not completely tender. Probably about five to ten minutes, maximum. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds. Pour fruit mixture into a baking dish. It shouldn’t be mushy. Let the cinnamon stick mingle with the fruit in the oven. Good things are sure to come of such a union.

Crumbly bit

You’ll need about two cups of the following. Use any proportions you like. Maybe a cup of oats and a cup of everything else, mixed. The crumble is infinitely adaptable, just use whichever nuts and seeds tickle your fancy today and whatever you’ve got on hand.

Oats
Pumpkin seeds
Sunflower seeds
Slivered almonds
Hazelnuts
Macadamia nuts

To which you will need to combine with;

A quarter cup of coconut oil, melted
Three large tablespoons of honey

Combine the coconut oil with the honey. To which, add your ideal combination of oats, seeds and nuts. Stir them around to ensure they are all a little sticky. Scatter over the fruit. Bake in a 170 degree oven for around half an hour. Serve with the chai custard below. Or vanilla ice-cream. The wisest among us will serve it with both.

Creamy bit

Two cups of whole organic milk (a mixture of half milk, half actual cream is favoured). Low fat varieties make for a grim substitute.

Four egg yolks
Three tablespoons of honey (you can add more to taste)
Seeds of half a vanilla bean pod
A good teaspoon of top quality chai tea, in an infuser. If you have teabags of chai, you could probably use two of those instead
A tablespoon of cornflour

Heat the milk (or milk and cream, if you’re feeling frisky) gently over a stovetop. Though for goodness sake do not let it boil. Add the chai infuser and allow it to infuse for a few moments, as the milk cools slightly. Meanwhile, as the milk heats, whisk together the four egg yolks with the honey and the cornflour. Then, remove the infuser, and whisk the milk – or milk and cream – with the yolk mixture until smooth. Return the the pan. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until what is before you becomes luxuriously velvety.  You could always let the chai infuse a little longer, during this step, though attempts to coordinate continuous stirring with a well balanced infuser could prove trickier than expected.

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