Saturday, 17 May 2008

A crumble that needs company

When my parents moved into their house over 20 years ago, the garden was just some scrubby grass. My parents are gardeners and have spent years nurturing a flourishing rose garden which adds great colour and character to the 1927 white weatherboard Californian Bungalow. (I just searched for a photo but I can’t find any except a nice green one of the back garden which is also a blooming miracle in the drought.) In fact when it was recently listed as a heritage building, the listing mentioned the garden.

I never appreciated gardening much when I was younger. I just wanted to look at the building. But as I have got older I have come to appreciate gardens much more. After all, those fine historic houses of Europe wouldn’t look quite so grand without their amazing gardens. So too, I never used to appreciate a side dish with dinner but these days I realise how important it is.

I was reflecting on side dishes last weekend when I made Lucy’s leek and tomato crumble. I have often treated leeks as always the bridesmaid never the bride. But I was attracted to this leek-centric dish by its promise of creamy comfort to be enriched by tahini.

Instead of simmering a tomato sauce to top the leek mixture, I roasted the tomatoes. Partly because I was avoiding watching another pot, partly inspired by Lucy’s recent stunning photos of roasting tomatoes, and partly because I was so excited by the variety of tomatoes in the supermarket. When you have the vivid glories of yellow roma, cocktail piccolini and grape tomatoes, you don’t want to cook them into an unidentifiable mush. It was a delight to taste the intense juicy flavour brought on by roasting. I would also be interested in Lucy’s other suggested version of the recipe with extra tahini and no milk.

This dish was indeed comforting as if it was dredging up some memories of food of the past. The crisp buttery oaty crumble on top made a pleasing contrast with the creamy leeks and the occasional juicy tomato. Delicious but also rather rich. Excellent in small quantities and desperately in need of company.

The success of the crumble depended on the way it was served. The first night it was lovely but heavy with a great collision of leftovers: some roasted root vegetables left after my rosy bread adventures, tossed with rocket leftover from my lasagne and dressed with raspberry vinegar. The second night the crumble didn’t fare too well when I piled it with roasted tomatoes and Brussels sprouts hoping to maybe lighten it with more tomatoes. Instead it just made the crumble soggy. Finally a small tub of it heated up for lunch the following day was very pleasing.

It is possible to get lots of variety in a one pot wonder as Meeta recently demonstrate in one of her mingles. But I have come to learn that the way to have such rich dishes with so few vegies is to serve them with a good salad or other side dish of bright fresh vegies. Kathryn is posting a informative series at the moment about eating variety of foods. I am sure she would agree that side dishes are an excellent way to increase the diversity in your diet. Like a house with a garden, a main dish with a side dish is usually much more interesting and pleasing to the eye.

Leek and tomato crumble
(adapted from Leith’s Vegetarian Bible via Nourish Me)
Serves 8

600g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 leeks, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp flour
1 cup rice, almond or cows milk
1 tbsp tahini
1 scant cup flour (wholemeal [whole-wheat] works well)
½ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons of fresh herbs, finely chopped
85g cold butter, cubed
1 tbsp sesame seeds
sea salt and pepper

Place tomatoes and garlic in a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil, season and toss to combine. Roast for 20 minutes at 200 C. When softened, remove from oven. (Or fry onion in a little oil, add tomatoes, season and simmer 20 minutes til thickened and pulpy.)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a stockpot and fry onions for 5 minutes. Add leeks and cover. Heat on low for 5-8 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. I needed a little extra liquid and tipped in some liquid from the tomatoes.

Add butter and stir while it melts. Then mix flour into buttery leek mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Add the milk and stir til combined. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tahini, season and remove from heat. Set aside.

Mix the flour, oats and herbs together in a large bowl. Rub in the cubed butter with your fingertips until mixed in and forming clusters resembling chunky crumbs.

Spread the leeks in a greased large baking dish (9 x 13 inches). Pour the tomatoes on top. Scatter evenly with crumble. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the crumble. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden.

On the Stereo:
Discography: Pet Shop Boys


  1. A savoury crumble? Now this is a great idea!

  2. Sounds very good--I think I'd want this as a side dish, though. And I just discovered that the house we're renting has a huge herb garden off to the side of the building--mint, basil, sage, chives--can't wait to try them out! Your parents' garden is beautiful.

  3. Yes, well, not only am I coming over to your house to raid your cookbook collection, but also E's CD rack! Pet Shop Boys - hooray!

    I'm thrilled you tried (and liked) the dish. It is rich, but then, I think I'm obsessed with rich things!

    Your mum and dad's garden looks to be a wonderful, green oasis.

  4. Like a house with a garden, a main dish with a side dish is usually much more interesting and pleasing to the eye.

    You must be a writer. :)

    This sounds truly lovely. Sorry it's been a while since I stopped over.

    Please consider yourself tagged for the 10 pic meme and just do it whenever you get the chance. Even if it's a year from now. ;)

  5. Wow - this takes me right back. About twenty years, to be precise, when - as a new veggie - I started making veggie crumbles (courtesy of the Cranks' recipe book, if I remember rightly). An oldie and a goodie!

  6. Oooh, I love the idea of the leeks with the tahini, that's definitely a combination to experiment with!

  7. Oh, I remember seeing this on Lucy's blog and wanting to try it out. A timely reminder. Thank you. :)

  8. thanks Romina - I'd recommend trying savoury crumbles if you haven't - is a great way to enjoy your veggies

    thanks Ricki - it would be a very good side. That's exciting to discover a herb garden - after years of not using herbs much because I didn't like the dusty dried jars I had, I am quite excited by fresh herbs.

    thanks Lucy - Pet Shop Boys is mine but you would have fun with both our CDs (more head scratching with E's I think). My parents are keen gardeners and it shows in their garden but even they struggle to keep the grass green with so little rain

    thanks Pixie - always nice to have you drop by when you can - I know we all wish we had more time! Will think about doing the tag some time - should be fun - thanks

    thanks Aforkful - it is just the sort of dish you might expect from Cranks - maybe the reason i find crumbles a little nostalgic is also that one of my favourite meals as a new vego was a vegetable crumble (whereas my mum only made sweet crumbles for us when younger)

    thanks Helen - leeks and tahini is a lovely combination

    thanks Wendy - I was thinking it is nice to have recipes reappearing on other blogs as there are so many I mean to get around to that I need reminders too!

  9. I'm in total agreement Johanna. I often use side dishes to up the vegetable quote (and variety!) of a meal. A salad, some interesting pickles, sauteed green beans with toasted almonds etc, etc. The crumble looks divine.

  10. thanks Kathryn - I thought you would be a fan of side dishes!


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