Rhubarb Streusel Crumble


Saturday 9th May

We have a new reward system involving marbles. Like all good  reward systems it is made up on the spur of the moment. My parenting has been going down the swanny recently. Nobody actually listens to me anymore and I find myself resorting to empty threats or downright lies to get the children to behave, or just not to kill each other.

I have become the wait-till-your-father-gets-home person that I swore I’d never be. On bad days I make pretend phone calls to Tom at work:

“Hello! I’m just phoning to tell you that no one is behaving! No pocket money unless they put their shoes on in the next ten seconds? Yes, I’ll let them know!” 

Or I threaten to turn the car around and take Ollie back to pre-school so that we can discuss his behave with Gemma, his key-worker. A suggestion which is always met with screams from the backseat. 

I know these are big no-nos in the world of parenting but sometimes you’re just pushed to it. Hence the marbles. They were either going to the charity shop (no one plays with them) or being put to some use.  

“Right that’s it!” I bellow, interrupting another dinner-time bickering session, “New system! Here, have a wooden egg each!” I say as I grab two hollow eggs from our Easter display which is still hanging around. “Everytime I CATCH you being nice to the other one, you win a marble. When you get to ten marbles, you can choose a reward!”

There’s silence for a second while they process this, then Daisy throws her arms around Ollie, nearly suffocating him, and shouts,

“I love you so much, Ollie! Now can I have a marble?” 

I clarify the rules (made up on the spot): 1) just being kind to get a marble will not win you a marble, you have to mean it 2) begging for a marble will not win you one either. 

All of this falls on deaf ears. The kids, in particular Daisy, are frenzified at the prospect of winning a prize. They don’t see this as a long term goal – their aim is to get to ten before the night is out. 

They eat their dinner exclaiming how much they love each other, then race upstairs for the usual post-dinner bathroom fight about who’s going to use the toilet first. Except this time Ollie gets on to the bathroom first and Daisy shouts out (for my benefit),

“That’s ok, Ollie! I’m about to pee my pants but of course you can use the toilet first, because I love you so much!” 

This being-kind-to-each-other farce continues into bed-time where they beg to sleep in the same bed so that they can ‘hold hands all night’ because they love each other so much. I’m not sure which is worse, this or the fighting.

Within 48 hours the wooden eggs are full of marbles; much quicker than I anticipated. The children come down to breakfast to find eight envelopes with a reward inside each one. They are allowed to choose one each.

Ollie tears open the envelopes and Daisy reads them out. They can do team work when they need to. 

“What does this say, Dais?”

Daisy peers over, “Go on a bike ride with daddy.”

“Nah,” says Ollie and chucks the card over his shoulder. “Next one”.

“Go for a hot chocolate with mummy,” reads Daisy. 

“Nah,” says Ollie, and over the shoulder it goes. All the rewards which involve time with the parents receives the same response. They get to the penultimate card:

“Get an extra chocolate bar on Treats’ Day.”

“Yessss!” They shout in unison and high-five. 

“Can you imagine?” says Daisy, “two chocolate bars on Friday instead of one!”

“Now we’re talking!” says Ollie. 

The next card pleases them even more: 

“Pick any two items from Poundland.”

They hug over this one and I am left feeling slightly disappointed that our children are such consumerists…..

Saturday was a day of hard labour for Tom with more fence-erecting. Now that the majority of the house is done, we’ve moved onto tackling the garden. 

Such hard work seemed to warrant a hearty roast chicken dinner and a pudding using our first crop of rhubarb. This is a gluten and dairy-free  dessert but you can easily use normal flour and butter. I’m told it’s the best free-from crumble I’ve made, which is not saying a lot, because last time I forgot to put sugar in and it was like eating sawdust over fruit…….


  • rhubarb, 450g
  • soft light brown sugar, 40g
  • pure vanilla essence, 1tsp
  • gluten-free plain flour, 75g
  • bicarbonate of soda, quarter of tsp
  • ground ginger, half tsp
  • ground cinnamon, 1 tsp
  • sea salt, pinch of
  • soft light brown sugar, 75g
  • Jumbo porridge oats, 60g
  • Pure sunflower spread, 75g

You will need a small oven-proof dish approximately 30 x 20cm.


Cut the rhubarb into 1cm lengths and put into a large saucepan with 40g of the sugar and the vanilla essence. Cook over a gentle heat for 10 mins. Drain any excess liquid.


Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/ gas mark 5.

In a large bowl sieve together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Stir in the oats, salt and sugar, then rub in the margarine. 

Spoon the rhubarb into the oven dish and sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the top.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes until the streusel is golden. 

Delicious served with coconut custard: coconut milk plus custard powder – follow the instructions on the tin. Custard powder is gluten-free so this makes a delicious gluten & dairy-free accompaniment to any hot dessert.

Crumble inspired by Pippa Kendrick’s fabulous free-from cook book The Intolerant Gourmet. I can’t recommend it enough for gluten and dairy-free cooking, plus Pippa has a Norwich connection as well. http://www.theintolerantgourmet.com/my-books/ 

One thought on “Rhubarb Streusel Crumble”

  1. What great timing. We have just been given a load of rhubarb and I really fancy rhubarb crumble! (Still attempting no sugar but don’t think I can go much longer). The custard sounds great too. Is that made with coconut milk from a tin or a carton?


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