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16 October 2015

Apple, Damson & Blackberry Crumble

As the days get a little cooler, and we wrap up a little warmer in our snuggly jumpers and woolly tights, we automatically reach for those foods which are comforting and homely. The smell of a hearty stew wafting through the house as it bubbles away on the hob... The tingle of cinnamon on your tongue as you slurp away on your eighteenth Pumpkin Spice Latte... Well what about the taste of a traditional, delicious and utterly amazing apple, damson and blackberry crumble?


This autumn, I was determined to make the ultimate crumble. So often do we have high hopes for this dish, yet a soggy top or bland bottom can creep up on even the most accomplished cooks. Well not this time! This year was going to be the year that I created a crumble with a crispy, nutty topping, and a spicy, fruit-packed filling, that would make all its consumers hug their bowls closely to their chests with big grins on their faces as they reached for more lashings of custard. 

OK, so I may have been asking for quite a lot.


I started off well, as my in-laws ensured we left their house with armfuls of beautiful home grown fruit; with damsons and apples from their garden, and blackberries from the Shropshire countryside, we were off to a flying start!


I then did a fair bit of research, deciding which recipes and ingredients to use; in the end, I chose to combine recipes from Jamie Oliver (one of my favourite chefs) and Raymond Blanc (Mr Blanc does know an awful lot about cooking) - I also spiced it up with a couple of my own thoughts and ideas!

I am so pleased to be able to share this final recipe with you - and I did promise I would. This is now my go-to crumble recipe; once you've got the idea, you can add whatever fruit you fancy - just take into account the consistency of your fruit when it comes to cooking it, as the time it takes for different fruits to soften will vary. Decide what fruit you're going to use depending on what's in season - and if you can get your fruit from a friendly neighbour or a local market, then all the better! It's nice to support local businesses and to know exactly where your ingredients have come from.

Therefore, do not worry if you can't get hold of damsons. You could use plums as a substitute, or just go for a simple but delicious apple and blackberry crumble!

Apple, Damson & Blackberry Crumble

Ingredients (Makes 1 medium crumble - about 6 big servings)
Topping
120g plain flour
30g caster sugar
30g demerara sugar
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
A handful of flaked almonds
A handful of chopped hazelnuts 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Filling
200g eating apples; peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
100g damsons; stoned and chopped 
30g unsalted butter
30g demerara sugar
200g blackberries
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
A small handful of cloves
A pinch of mixed spice (optional)

To serve - custard, vanilla ice cream, cream (The choice is yours! Although I would definitely go for custard...)

Equipment
1 x ovenproof dish
Large mixing bowl
Baking sheet
Saucepan

Method
1. Pre-heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas mark 5. Make the topping first: tip your flour and sugars together in a large bowl, then add the cubes of unsalted butter. Rub the ingredients together with your tips of your fingers, rubbing the flour into the butter. You want to make a light breadcrumb mixture - mine looked a lot like sand! You mustn't handle it too much as that's how your topping can become tough - if it looks ready, it probably is! 

2. Add your flaked almonds, hazelnuts and cinnamon to the mixture, and toss the ingredients together lightly so they're combined. Sprinkle the mixture onto your baking sheet evenly, and bake for 15-20 mins. Raymond said to do this until the topping is lightly coloured; mine looked quite anaemic for a while, and then after about 20 mins it looked like one massive golden biscuit. But this is a good thing! If your topping becomes one big biscuit, just give your pan a shake and break it up slightly. Don't panic.

This step is really important, as by baking your topping first you get a beautifully crispy texture to your crumble.

3. While your topping is baking, make a start on your filling. Add the butter and sugar to your saucepan, and melt together over a medium heat. After a few minutes it will start to look like caramel; warning - you will want to dive head first into the saucepan and eat it all, but you mustn't. Instead, add the cinnamon, mixed spice if you like, and your cloves. {It is up to you if you leave the cloves in the filling; if someone bites into a clove unexpectedly then that can be a bit of a horrid experience, but it can also be quite a faff picking the cloves out later on. You definitely want them in there as they add a gorgeous flavour to the filling... The choice is yours!}

 4. Add your apples to the caramel mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, then add your damsons and cook for another couple of minutes. Finally, add your blackberries, and cook for another few minutes. The fruit will begin to soften, and the caramel will turn into a thick, pinky-red sauce that smells of autumnal spices. Yum! Cover, remove from the heat, and leave to cook for another 2-3 minutes in the warmth of the pan.

5. Spoon your filling into an ovenproof dish, then add your baked topping. This can now sit on the side for a bit if you have a main dish to cook (for example, I made this in the morning before our Sunday roast, and let this rest in the kitchen while I cooked lunch.) When you're ready, re-heat in the oven for 10-15 mins, until the topping is a lovely golden colour and the filling is bubbling at the sides. Serve with your choice of custard or cream, and watch as your loved ones hug the bowls closely to their chests with big grins on their faces. I promise you; people will love you forever if you make them this crumble.

Enjoy cooking - and send me your pics! You can tweet me here, or share your perfect crumble with me on Instagram.

{Final disclaimer - I appreciate that there aren't many photos of the crumble in this post. This is genuinely because the crumble got eaten so fast that there wasn't much chance to take pics... Apologies. You can blame my greedy family.} 

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