a deeper dive | rhubarb & hazelnut crumble

I've seen this illustration, just the black outline of a circle in blank space. Inside the circle, the words 'comfort zone' are scrawled, and in the white space around it, 'everything interesting'. Not much at first, but pretty powerful. If someone asked you to fill in that circle, what would it look like? A comfort zone is such a personal thing. Mine would be full of quirks. I'm happy enough to go on long haul trips on my own, juggling tight connections, weird foreign airports. It doesn't scare me, but I've had friends that would talk for days about upcoming trips, who have to psyche themselves up to take flights or to go abroad at all. Last year, we did an overland trip in my dad's pick up from Beira (on the coast in Mozambique) to a very remote safari lodge, deep in the heart of the Zimbabwe bush. Like, nbd. I read an email from my dad the other day, and relayed it to my sister. "dad said he might be driving to Harare tomorrow". "Oh, ok. That's a fun trip" she said to me. Like driving to an obscure city in Zimbabwe and negotiating an African border control was nothing much, just something you decide to do from one day to the next. Casual, we said it like we'd say to each other "mum's thinking of going to town tomorrow to return those shoes". Town here is a 25 minute drive. We could say both, in the same breath.

Which may make it look like it would be impossible for me to leave my comfort zone. Which isn't true. I've had my license now for about 6 months and my palms still sweat when I have to drive to a place I haven't been, especially if it's in the city. Since I was young, I would toy with making a phone call for about 10 minutes before I actually dialled the damn number, just because I hate talking on the phone. One of those strange things that makes me nervous. And ringing doorbells. My sister and I would have a great debate before we went to call on a friend in our neighborhood, because knocking on doors required leaving the comfort zone. But life was more interesting when our friend played too, so we'd brave the sweaty palms and walk up that garden path. 

The walk up that garden path was a curve ball to my quiet days of  childhood summer vacation. They shook me up, just enough. As a whole, I think we're creatures of habit, and when we stray from our habits, we leave what's comfortable. If I have a one or two hour class in the middle of the day, I'm lost when I come home because I don't know where I stand along my own self-created one way street. Sure, I'm happy enough to drive through African bush that may or may not be hiding rebels who sporadically make trouble, but I needed a real kick to get there. Not particularly because I was scared of what was to come, but just because I didn't want to leave the cushy little zone of what's every day and known to me. You know when it's really cold out and you sink into a deep arm chair and even though you know you really badly need something, you don't want to leave? It's like that. There are better, more interesting things elsewhere, but dragging yourself towards them can be really tough. Some people are more motivated to step out than others - adventure can be like a magnet for some, who can't resist it's pull. No matter how in debt, how ill, how dangerous it is, an addict can always find the dealer. You become addicted to stepping over the border, into the that blank space, the unknown, and some people go seek it. 

Is there a skill in choosing when to step over the border? Are the drugs worth the pain? Who draws the line between courage and plain stupidity? Hard for me to answer, because I'm not the world's greatest risk taker. I calculate, take them when I know I have to, it's something that I've learnt. Risk is a way of life. I like to languish in the comfort zone as much as I can, like sitting in a sunny spot by the window. It's a good place to think and to get things done. But it's undoubtedly boring. You don't learn enough when you're there, you'll never see enough, you'll just go numb. My sister and I, when we were kids, would slowly grow bored with our games for two people, and pull the courage from somewhere to walk up to our friend's house to call on her. A myriad of new games for the three of us. Outside the comfort zone are the things that force you out of a rut and make you cherish the every day, the routine, even more. The blank space is risky, less comfortable, a place to be on edge. Astronauts rip through the atmosphere on the way to the stars, fighter jet pilots break the sound barrier as they go into battle. If you're looking for something more, whether you want more or need more,  I've never found it in the comfort zone. You can paddle with the fish forever, in a pond where every corner is familiar, or you can swim into the sea to play with the sharks.

"These shallow waters never met what I needed
I'm letting go, a deeper dive"
Alan Walker, Faded

So now as usual I'm going to awkwardly shift gears (that's one of my strengths) to talk about the merits of rhubarb. I've been looking high and low for rhubarb since the season for the early 'forced' crop started... then my sister hunted this bunch down for me, so shout out to her for that. Anyways, various family members like rhubarb for its tartness in sweet things, so I made a super simple crumble, using apples to balance out the bite from the rhubarb. It's actually pretty healthy for desert, so you could have it for breakfast if that's your thing. If you do want it to be more desert-y, you could serve it with some ice cream, or yogurt otherwise. I used hazelnuts here because I thought the colour and richness would be nice, but feel free to use another nut that you have chilling in a jar somewhere. It has been weirdly warm here for the past few days, so spring really made its mark, and the rhubarb is proof that. Hoping that it makes an appearance wherever you are - spring, and the rhubarb.
A lovely end to your week. Hugs xx

Rhubarb & hazelnut crumble

Serves 8-10 // gluten + dairy free

1 bunch of rhubarb (400-500g) (around 1 pound)
2-3 medium apples (450g-ish) (around 1 pound)
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon natural orange juice, or fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons (45ml) pure maple syrup

// for the crumble

3/4 cup (75g) rolled oats, certfied gf if you need
3/4 cup (75g) oat flour (same)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (70g) chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup (60ml) pure maple syrup
1/4 cup (25g) extra virgin coconut oil, melted 

Preheat the oven to 180'c / 350'f. Oil a 9inch square pan, or something with similar real estate.

Slice the rhubarb into even chunks; core the apple and chop it too, you can leave the skin. Add the fruit to the dish, scrape in the vanilla bean, drizzle over the oj & maple syrup, then toss everything gently to combine.

In a small bowl, toss the flour, oats and chopped hazelnuts together with the salt. Drizzle the coconut oil and maple syrup over, then using your fingers or a fork, crumble the liquids and flour together so that clumps start to form. Continue mixing with a fork till the mixture is crumbly, with a few chunks.

Drop the crumble into the pan, over the fruit in an even layer. Bake for around 30 minutes, till the fruits are super soft & bubbling, and the crumble layer is crisp and lightly brown.

The crumble will keep 5 days in the fridge, and I've heard they freeze and defrost well, so I'll be trying that for sure.

more fruity desserts