So the leaves are all turning burnt gold, auburn, crimson and the morning are crisp with deep powder blue skies. I love this time of year, wandering through dried leaves, staring into fires, wrapping up, rediscovering the delights of sloe gin and big, bombastic bakes!
Desserts or otherwise, its time to wake the oven up, it tends to be underused in the summer months and dust off our oven dishes. Autumn and winter mean we need warm hugs and serious sustenance in our bowls/ plates. It’s something of a survival mechanism and certainly leads to oodles of well-being. Cosy soul food!
Nothing says autumn more than the first crumble of the year. Your body knows what’s coming, the dark and windy time when we crave large plates of stodgy happiness to warm our wintery bones. We are enjoying a beautiful September up here on Tiger Mountain, but the nights are getting a bit chilly and crumble is the perfect antidote. Easing us into this time of year in the tastiest of ways.
Crumble’s beauty lie in their simplicity and the way they gobble up our autumn fruity abundance. This recipe is beautifully basic and can be taken in so many directions with addition of other fruits (think blackberries, damsons, mulberries, dried fruits etc) or flavourings (like elderflower, orange blossom, I’ve even tried a tahini and apple crumble which was a treat). Adding chocolate to a crumble has been tried and works like a dream. This recipe is a lovely foundation to add to as you see fit.
We are setting out a little orchard in the garden. The trees are young (bar our ancient looking plum tree and windswept crab apple) and normally offer scant fruit. My Snowdonia Pear Tree, a juvenile, was unceremoniously beheaded by a storm recently. Its tough going for saplings in these parts! Our little Bardsey Apple tree however is a rugged super star, branches laden every year with tart and juicy, vivid green apples. Not such great eaters (too much of a twang) but perfect when cooked. These apples were actually all windfall, saved from the fate of an army of slugs that camp out and descend like slimy vultures on any fruit that hits the deck.
What to do with all those apples? If your, family members, neighbours, avid scrumpers know of an apple tree, I’m sure you’re asking yourself the same thing. Here are few little ideas for all those surplus apples:
- Make a Tart Tatin (see below)
- Cook into apple sauce and use on desserts and breakfast bowls. Apple sauce is also wonderful in baking, it helps to bind cakes etc together.
- Make your own Apple Cider Vinegar or Apple and Mint Vinegar
- Make Apple Vodka, Whiskey or Gin by steeping the apples in alcohol.
- Try a Apple and Ginger Smoothie or Apple and Kale Juice
- Add slices to pancakes and bread (works brilliantly with rye or spelt flours)
- They make a great Raita
- Chop them up and mix them into your muesli/ granola/ sprouted grains etc for breakfast.
- Make Apple and Plum Chutney
- Make Beetroot and Apple Sauerkraut or add to your favourite Kimchi recipe (there’s a nice one in Peace and Parsnips
- Add them to stews, salads or soups
- Spread them out somewhere, preferably on cardboard and keep them for as long as possible. Crunch and yum!
- Make cider.
ALL APPLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
When cooking with apples its worth tasting one first. They can be so varied and this is what I love about them. They are surely one of the finest things we grow in the UK and our traditional varieties offer up a fascinating and varied palate of flavours and textures to play with in the kitchen; some are flowery in texture and sweet, some crisp and tangy, we just need to find them the right home. I have to say that the best way to eat a good apple is to give it a little polish on our trousers or jumper (why do we do that?) and crunch into it. I like to eat the core and seeds as well.
Making this pud into a pure plant-based pleasure is a cinch, you’re really just substituting the butter in the traditional crumble with oil and some flax seeds, which offer a lovely nutty flavour and help to give the crumble a little bite and oodles of nutrition. I am also not great at using large scoops of sugar, I need gentle persuasion. You can probably make this with other sweeteners, but for once in the BHK, we’re going (almost) traditional.
Crumble is oh so simple but surprisingly many are still not great. Being too sweet or having a dry, floury crumble are two cardinal sins of crumble-hood. I like a nutty, crisp crumble. This is why crumble is always enjoyed best straight out of the oven. The longer its left, the more time for the crumble to loose its magic crunch. I like to add nuts and flax seeds to add even more flavour and bite. To avoid just a mouthful of floury sweetness, I like oats bound with a little flour. Simple pleasures are always the best!
So grab a fireplace, a large spoon and a nice crisp autumn night and enjoy this true British classic.
You can use buckwheat flour and gluten free oats to side step gluten here. I love the flavour of buckwheat; its fuller and deeper than wholemeal.
The amount of sugar you will need depends on your apples. Ours are very sharp, so we went for 90g. Jane has a sweet tooth (see above) and was very pleased with the sweetness level with that amount.
Crumble is amazingly adaptable, make it well in advance or make a large batch of apple sauce and use for other purposes (see above). Crumbles also freeze brilliantly.
I don’t like going ott with cinnamon, I just like it somewhere in the background. Not a main player in a crumble. Add more if your a spicy crumbler.
Enough frivolity, lets crumble!!!!!!
60-100g light brown sugar (unrefined)
3 tbs water
1/2 – 1 teas cinnamon
20g flax seeds (ground)
75g mixed nuts (roughly chopped)
30g light brown sugar (unrefined)
70ml rapeseed/ olive oil
1 teas cinnamon
20g buckwheat/ wholemeal flour
In a saucepan, add all of the ingredients for the apples. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 20 mins with a lid on or until the apples are tender and just falling apart.
Mix all of the crumble ingredients together in a bowl. Preheat oven to 200oC.
In a baking dish (approx 10″ by 8″), spoon in the apple sauce and sprinkle over the crumble mix until there is a nice thick layer.
Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the crumble is a dark golden colour and the apple sauce is bubbling away.
We had ours with custard. Mainly because we don’t have any ice cream in the freezer. If we had ice cream, I am sure there would have been a long debate about which way to go. Which way do you go? The timeless question. I think it depends on how the stars are aligned (or something). PS – It must be vanilla ice cream. Of course. Anything else would be utterly ridiculous.
Crumble is food of the Gods and makes you happy:)