Crumbling Away

applesAn Apple Crumble with custard is never out of season according to the good wife. When the days turn chilly, the nights turn cold and apples are in abundance, what can be a better than this good old favourite?

Let’s get it right this time and make it all finger-and-lips lickingly good and from scratch. From top to bottom, in order of preparation:

Custard

Mix 250 ml double cream with 250 ml whole milk (1/2 pint each), bring it almost to the boil. Mix 100 g sugar, 5 free-range egg yolks (room temperature) and a good helping of vanilla essence or seeds from a vanilla pod. When the milk is just below the boiling point, remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the egg mix. Keep whisking for a minute, then place the pot in cold water and whisk for another minute.

There’s no need for water bath and it will not turn into scrambled eggs if you remember to remove the pot from the heat and whisk vigorously.

Put it into the fridge for at least one hour. This will keep for days, but it won’t last for days. Not in my house.

Crumble

It’s 1 : 1 : 1 : 1. 50 g soft butter, 50 g sugar, 50 g white wheat flour, 50 g ground almonds. Take the hand mixer and whisk it all together, optionally adding a small handful of chopped toasted hazelnuts for extra goodness.

Put it into the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This can be prepared well before serving time.

Fruit

Peel and cut apples, perhaps add a little ground cinnamon, lime juice and sugar to bring them to life with the right levels of tartness and sweetness.

Production

Fill the baking dish or individual portion dishes with a layer of fruit.

Cover the fruit with a crumble layer, then bake at 200C for ~15 minutes until the crumble is slightly golden.

Serve straight from the oven with cold custard and speak no more.

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Blackberry Season

blackberry-jam-and-ginYou will have noticed what an excellent Blackberry year we have, with an abundance of lush, soft, sweet and surprisingly large fruit. Many of us have been busy making jam, juice and flavoured gin over the past weeks.

Here are some Blackberry Muffins, the perfect way to start a Sunday. This takes 10 minutes to prepare and 15 to bake, so it is easy to make in time for breakfast:

100 g white wheat flour, 80 g soft butter, 75 g sugar, 80 ml whole milk at room temperature. One free range egg yolk, seeds from half a vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of vanilla essence, and one generous teaspoon of baking powder.

Put butter and sugar into a bowl, using the hand mixer on low gear to mix thoroughly. Add egg, vanilla, milk and baking soda, then gradually add the flour into the mix. Mix until smooth. You’ll find the mix will be fairly runny, maybe like a thick yogurt. Perfect!

Gently fold in one or two handful of Blackberries or Raspberries. Fill muffin cups to approximately two thirds. We prefer non-sticking silicone or paper cups, but you can of course get the old muffin tray out for the occasion.

Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 10..15 minutes. Use a wooden stick or visual judgement to determine when they are ready.

You’ll find that the Blackberries are very easy pickings along the canal towpath or in the Hanwell Meadows. The plants do a good job at defending themselves and growing back, but please be mindful and avoid damage to plants and surroundings when foraging.

Something Fishy

dsc_1753Apple season is still going strong! Even though our very own Hanwell & Norwood Green Orchard Trail apple has been taken weeks ago, the local gardens and markets are still full of the good stuff.

In culinary terms, most people will think of apply jelly, juice, compote, pie, cake and crumble. Oh yes, and cider.

Allow me to to point out that apples make the perfect partner with oily fish.

A salad of pickled herring with red onions, fennel, dill, apple and soured cream is a delight. Kippers (Smoked herring) or smoked mackerel go well with apples, pink grapefruit, fennel, soft-boiled quail eggs and a spoon of mayonnaise or salad cream. A poached mackerel combines well with a sharp grated apple and a little soured cream.

Coming to think of it, I think the humble apple is one of the most versatile home-grown cooking ingredients we have available, probably ranking second right after the egg.

Elderberry Two-in-One

elderberry-double-trickSome of you were inspired to make Elderflower Cordial back in June, but I reckon you’ve left some flowers behind, didn’t you?

Why leave the fruit to the pigeons now?

Here’s the perfect double-trick for foraging enthusiasts: Elderberry Jelly and Elderberry Gin!

It’s a two-in-one trick. First, pick Elderberries off the tree, then wash, removes anything which moves and remove the stalks. Then pulp them in a juicer or blitz and separate juice from husks with an overnight muslin job.

Make Elderberry Jelly from the juice with Jam Sugar, following standard jam making practise (or following instructions on the Jam Sugar pack). Note it is normal that Elderberry Jelly will not set stiff, it will stay at the consistency of thick honey.

Then take the husks, add a large tablespoon of sugar or two. Put into a large jar, remove the air with Gin, seal, put in the back off the shelf and forget until around Christmas (then filter through a muslin and enjoy responsibly).

Always when foraging please forage considerably with consideration for your own health, the environment and private ownership. Only take what you are certain is yours to take and good for human consumption, leave it unless 100% certain.

Cherry Bread Pudding

DSCN2336This isn’t a bread pudding as you might know it. It is translated from my German home dialect, pfälzisch, and is really called Kärscheplotzer but trust me, Cherry Bread Pudding is close enough.

We eat it hot or cold, as pudding, sometimes with vanilla ice cream or custard, mostly just so. We eat it for breakfast, elevenses or for afternoon tea. Back in my German home region (die Pfalz), this is traditionally eaten with a garden vegetable soup for Saturday lunch. It’s delicious at any time, in any form, and right now is the perfect time. The cherries are beginning to ripen and the shops are full of them, if not your own cherry trees!

To make a generous portion for four, you need

1 stale loaf of crusty white sourdough bread or ciabatta, 400 g
80 g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod or equivalent amount of vanilla essence
3 happy free range eggs
1 pint whole milk
Butter, Cinnamon
Plenty of fresh cherries, preferably pitted. Dark sweet or Morello cherries will be fine.

Cut the bread into chunky pieces. Make sure to include the crust!

If the bread is fresh, spread it out on a baking tray and pop it into the oven at 70 C (150 F) for 45 minutes.

Mix the sugar, vanilla seeds or essence, a pinch of cinnamon, eggs and milk in a mixing bowl. Add the dried bread chunks and let soak for one or two hours (longer if the bread is bone dry). Gently turn this over occasionally but try to preserve the chunkiness.

Butter a suitable sized Pyrex or similar baking dish, about 50 mm (2”) deep. The batter mix should now be very wet without much running liquid left. Discard most surplus liquid if necessary, then add the cherries.

Pour the mix into the baking dish. Add a few small butter shavings on top. Optionally, sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar, then bake at 210 C (410 F) for half an hour. It’s ready when the surface colours and gets nice dark golden edges around the crusty bread pieces.

Let it cool down a little, then enjoy.