So before I get into all of the Cook the Books details, I just want to say happy belated Father’s Day to any dads out there who read this. My family and I spent the day together yesterday, all of us pitching in to help my mom prepare for her preschool’s graduation ceremony. Then we finished the day with some good eats (some of dad’s favorites) which I will describe at a later date ;).
Cook the Books is one of my favorite blog events out there because it combines two of my favorite things – reading and cooking. The premise is that we read a book every two months and then cook a dish that is inspired by it. This month’s book, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, was perhaps the polar opposite to last month’s Kitchen Confidential but was still a fun and much-enjoyed read.
The Little White Horse is a British children’s classic from the 40’s that was repopularized recently when J.K. Rowling proclaimed it to be one of her favorite books. After reading it, I can definitely see Goudge’s influence in Rowling’s writing. The Little White Horse tells the story of Maria Merryweather, an orphan who moves to Moonacre Manor upon her father’s death to live with her Uncle Benjamin Merryweather and her nanny, Miss Heliotrope. Unbeknownst to her, Maria is actually entering a land rife with magic and mystery – a land in which she, as Moon Princess, must work together with her soulmate, a Sun Merryweather, to restore peace.
The novel is filled with an excellent cast of characters, but perhaps one of the most memorable is Marmaduke Scarlet, the mysterious cook of Moonacre Manor. Marmaduke is very picky about his kitchen, but rightfully so – he seems to have a knack for knowing the perfect meals to cook at every occasion. He also seems to know that food is the perfect remedy for just about any situation and has an appreciation for its power to bring people together. Many of the meals he is described as cooking are very hearty, aimed to fuel Maria during her adventures. At the end of the book, however, when Maria requests that he prepare goodies for a party she wishes to have to commemorate her success at finally ending the battle between the Black Men and the Merryweathers, he rambles off a list of dessert-like delicacies that he intends on making.
It was in this list that I found my inspiration – a strawberry-rhubarb crumble. I decided on this for a few reasons. The first and most obvious being Marmaduke Scarlet’s name – there is nothing more scarlet in color than this crumble. The second reason revolves around Marmaduke’s ability to create a dish that perfectly complements any given situation. Strawberry and rhubarb go so well together because of the way that the sweetness of the strawberries balances out the tartness of the rhubarb – a kind of yin/yang effect. In the book, so much of the plight of Moonacre Valley is caused because of the inability of the Sun and Moon Merryweathers to get along. I can imagine Marmaduke cooking this crumble for Maria to subtly emphasize to her that even though we are all different people with different perspectives on things, we often need to set aside these differences or even to celebrate them to create something as beautiful and delicious as this strawberry-rhubarb crumble.
As I said, this is my selection for Cook the Books, which is being hosted this month by Rachel of The Crispy Cook. This is definitely a fun blog event so if you like to read, stop by the site to check out next month’s book!
Serves 8, first seen on Everybody Likes Sandwiches but ultimately adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
4 oz butter, melted
1 1/2 cups rhubarb
1 quart strawberries
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 pinch salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Prepare the topping: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, and lemon zest. Add the melted butter, mixing until clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.
3. Prepare the filling: Chop the rhubarb into small pieces and quarter the strawberries. Toss the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 9″ deep dish pie plate.
4. Remove the topping from the refrigerator and spread over the top of the filling. Place pie plate on a baking sheet (in case some of the filling bubbles over) and put in the oven. Bake until the crumble is golden and the fruit is bubbling, 40-50 minutes.