I have a thing for cookbooks. Some I cook from and others (for reasons I haven't really explored), I don't. It's not that I'm discriminative about to dotting little coloured tabs throughout them, but when it comes to the actual cooking from - I'm very much guilty of playing favourites. After admiring their accompanying photo *many times*, I recently cooked Diana Henry's 'pork chops with mustard & capers', we ate them with mesclun salad simply dressed with a classic vinaigrette. For dessert there was apple and blackberry crumble and vanilla bean custard. The meal felt effortless, with barely any preparation required and very little chance of anything going wrong. No more or less thought went into this than any other average Sunday night meal, but as we ate it I thought how utterly comforting it was to cook and eat this way (the fact that the pork comes from a book titled 'Simple' is not lost on me); and it occurred to me that if I were suddenly thrown back into the dating game - this is the first meal I would want to cook, or have cooked for me. And then, as though reading my mind hubby asked whether we could have the same meal again this Sunday, so here we are.
I can't imagine anyone not liking a crumble: seasonal fruit baked under a blanket of crisp, buttery topping - nourishing and comfortingly familiar. The topping can be easily adapted to be gluten and or dairy free, and the filling possibilities are endless (think rhubarb and strawberry, apricot and almond, plum and vanilla). It's so simple that even the most reluctant cook appears to have been born under the kitchen table, i.e. happy and relaxed, and it can (and possibly should) be made in advance -- and for that matter almost with one's eyes closed. What could be better!
Apple and Blackberry Crumble
Serves 4 - 6
800 g (about 6 small) organic, not-too-sweet eating apples, such as Royal Gala
250 g blackberries
40 - 60 g raw caster sugar (to taste)
Juice of half a lemon
for the crumble topping -
150 g plain or gluten-free flour
90 g soft brown sugar
125 g unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
60 g rolled oats
30 g raw almonds or walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 180C.
Peel, core and dice apples to roughly the size of the blackberries, and combine them in a large bowl with the berries, sugar and lemon juice. Toss to coat everything in sugar and juice. Tip them into a 1 litre capacity oven-proof dish (or divide evenly between four 250ml ramekins).
Mix together flour, sugar, melted butter, oats, nuts and a pinch of sea salt - it should form a knobbly sort of mixture that is not-too-uniform.
Using your fingers, scatter the topping over the fruit and bake on an oven tray (to catch any drips), for about 45 minutes (less for individual crumbles), until the topping is nutty brown and the fruit is bubbling and tender.
Serve hot with vanilla bean custard, ice cream or a dollop of cream.
Time permitting, I like to give the apples a little head-start in a small saucepan - just till they are tender when pierced with a knife
I usually have a punnet or two of blackberries in the freezer and add them to the apples still frozen - they tend to hold their shape better this way
Replace the blackberries with raspberries, blueberries, or chopped rhubarb
Hazelnuts and pecans work well in place of the almonds or walnuts
Freeze leftover topping in a zip lock bag (I would even go as far as to say make double), and use for an even quicker crumble another day, or for streusel muffins sprinkle over muffin batter before baking