Blackberry & Apple Crumble
Every August, I start monitoring the blackberry bushes on the south London common near our home. They surround – conveniently – the paths to the park and duck pond, standard places my daughter likes to frequent. As soon as the blackberries look plump and juicy (usually the end of August into September), the enthusiastic picking begins. Out comes the Tupperware and an extra supply of wet wipes, for cleaning up the occasional squishy berry. And they really do stain. Harvesting these wild beauties is no mean feat – I once wrecked a lovely pair of floaty trousers while scrambling through the thorny bushes to get the best blackberries.
I tend to pick and freeze until I’ve got enough to make a pie or a crumble. My daughter likes to pick them and pop them straight in her mouth, and it does her no harm. But to be on the safe side, I’ve taught her not to pick the ones closest to the ground…
Making a crumble is an absolute doodle. Even my Nan, famously short-tempered, was able to whip up a crumble in the blink of an eye (although she did use tinned rhubarb as a filling). My version has been tweaked over the years and is now a more modern, rubbly, buttery mass of crunchy sugar, oats, nuts and seeds – all of which can be modified as you please, depending on what you’ve got. This recipe is my crumble blueprint; just roughly stick to the quantities and you can’t go wrong. My fillings vary, depending on what’s left in the fruit bowl and/or freezer. Blueberries or raspberries are lovely combined with either chopped apples or pears. Again, just stick to the quantities shown and have fun experimenting!
Serve hot or cold, with custard, cream or ice cream.
Serves 4-6. I use a 20cm/8″ pie tin. You can use any shaped tin or dish, as long as all the ingredients fit nicely. Try to remember to butter it first.
For the crumble:
90g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice (optional, depending on the fruits used. I used it in this one)
50g unsalted butter, fridge-cold and cubed
40g demerara sugar
40g oatie mix – I tend to use a combination of oats, chopped nuts, mixed seeds and muesli. If you don’t have muesli, a handful of any cereal works wonders and gives a really good crunch.
For the filling:
Approximately 500g prepared weight of your chosen fruits. For this crumble, I used 250g of blackberries and 250g chopped apples.
Plus a squeeze of lemon juice and 2-3 tbsp of golden syrup, honey or caster sugar.
Make it vegan! Instead of butter, just use a vegan spread such as Pure (Earth Balance in the US).
Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6.
Measure the flour, spices (if using) and butter into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it is well incorporated – the occasional lump of butter is a good thing, don’t be tempted to make it too sandy. Now stir in the sugar and oat mix. Whatever you’re using, combine it all so that you have a deliciously knobbly-looking crumble topping. Feel free to make this in the morning or night before you need it, just keep it in the fridge until required. You can even bag it and freeze it, but as it’s so quick to make, I never bother.
Place the prepared fruit in the tin. Frozen fruit is fine straight from the freezer, don’t worry about defrosting it. Sprinkle over the lemon juice and your choice syrup, honey or sugar. Adjust to taste; some people like a less sweet crumble! Spoon the crumble topping evenly all over. You might want to flatten it with the palm of your hand to even it out a bit – this way it is less likely to have raised spots prone to burning.
Place in the centre of the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, until a nice golden brown colour. Allow to stand for about 20 minutes and serve hot; it is equally lovely at room temperature, or even cold. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.