Saturday, 20 August 2011

Apple and Blackberry Crumble


Something truly shocking has come to my attention. I have been writing this blog for five months now - and completed over 63 posts - and yet not once, not one single occasion in all that time, have I made my favourite pudding! Crumble! Food of the gods, light of my life, all time top pudding! I don't know what I've been doing with my time.

As soon as this startling revelation flashed across my consciousness, I knew that the situation had to be rectified with all speed. And it couldn't just be any crumble. Although I find it almost impossible to choose a favourite - rhubarb, pear, apple and pear, apple and raisin, apple and mincemeat, plain apple, all delicious - I always hold a sneaking suspicion that apple and blackberry is the ultimate crumble. 

What's more, we had all the ingredients and it was raining too hard to go out as planned. The Fates seemed to be conspiring to put crumble in my oven, on my table and in my belly, and as any good Classicist will know, we are all powerless in the hands of the immortals. So I surrendered. And then I scoffed.

I say that crumble is my favourite pudding but my devotion to it goes further. When I was little (and maybe even now?), raw crumble mixture was my favourite thing to eat in the world, bar none. Half the joy of making crumble - maybe more than half, to be honest - was in scooping up furtive teaspoonfuls of crumble mix when my mum's back was turned. Sometimes it seemed to be touch and go whether there'd be enough left to bake on top of the fruit. There was just something about the delicate golden crumbs, crunchy with crystals of vanilla-scented sugar, soft with butter, liberally interspersed with oats. I used to think it was the food which fairies would eat.

Now, I'm a grown-up and don't believe in fairies any more (clap clap clap clap clap!). But I still love crumble - raw and cooked - and I can't believe that it's been so long since I made it. In my defence, I've eaten it a lot in restaurants in the intervening months, but everyone knows that restaurant crumble isn't the same as the homemade stuff. It's gloopy, or not crunchy enough, or too crunchy. Too much fruit, too little fruit. And, most disappointingly of all, you don't get to eat the raw mixture straight from the bowl.

It may still be raining ridiculously hard outside, but in here it is warm and cosy and vanilla-scented. Crumble, I've missed you! Luckily, I made such a massive one that we've got enough to last the week. Well, theoretically.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble
There's no recipe, as such - I just go by look and feel. But if you want a base recipe to use, I'd suggest Nigella.

- butter
- flour (either self-raising or plain, Nigella recommends the former)
- sugar - I tend to use a mixture of vanilla caster sugar, and crunchy demerara
- if you like, you can add spices (cinnamon, allspice?), chopped nuts etc - but I tend to keep it plain and just add porridge oats
- 2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped into chunks
- a few handfuls of blackberries

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Like I say, I'm afraid I don't tend to measure - just rub together butter and flour (a bit more flour than butter) until you've got clumping crumbs. Stir in a few heaped tablespoonfuls of sugar, oats and whatever other bits you fancy, then taste and adjust it until you think it is physically impossible for it to taste better. 

Arrange the fruit in a big dish, scatter with more sugar then pour the crumbs over and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Serve with custard, ice cream, cream, yoghurt, creme fraiche or just straight from the dish with a spoon - however you eat it, enjoy.

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