An occasional series in which I pass on recipes that have been important for our family. They’re mainly for my children, Miriam, Finn and Benjamin, but I like to think other people might stumble across them and enjoy them too.
Ask me to remember your grandfather looking happy and I will tell you about crumble. If he knew it was on the menu, a little smile would play around his mouth all through the meal. The astonishing thing is that Ben does exactly the same thing: it’s funny how mannerisms can be inherited as well as looks.
Your grandmother is the doyenne of crumble making. Until very recently you would always find one in her kitchen, the buttery crust crumbling slowly and gently into a base of fruit she had often grown herself.
You can all argue about which one is best: it’s certainly what she and I were doing after Grandpa’s funeral (you will understand it was inevitable the conversation would turn to his favourite pudding). Your great uncle James said plum crumble is better than all the others; Grandma voted for apple, and I was torn between apple and blackberry, and rhubarb.
Since Ben continues to be disappointingly averse to rhubarb, I offer you the former but it’s only a guide: you can use whatever fruit you want. Possibly it’s the only pudding recipe you ever need.
Try and be precise about the quantities for the topping; for the fruit, just use what you’ve got and add however much sugar feels right. It’s hard to be more exact than that but I suppose if you want measurements, you could aim for about 450g of fruit and 30-50g of sugar, depending on how sharp the fruit is.
This is important: don’t muck around with the topping. Recipe books will try and make you add oats or ground almonds or goodness knows what else, but all you need is flour, butter and sugar. The only variation I’ve ever found helpful is sometimes swopping half the white flour for wholemeal: it gives a nice nutty flavour.
There’s just about time to pick some blackberries now, but be quick – they’ll be over in a matter of days.
Oh, and sorry about the imperial measurements. It wouldn’t feel like Grandma’s recipe if I converted it, but you can of course.
APPLE AND BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE
10 ounces plain flour
5 ounces butter
4 ounces soft brown sugar
2-3 large Bramley apples
Several handfuls of blackberries
Peel the apples, slice them thickly and put them in a sink full of water to stop them going brown.
Rub the butter into the flour, or whizz in a food processor
Stir in the sugar.
Now put the fruit into an ovenproof dish. Here’s a funny thing about your Grandma: she always made us dry the apples in a tea towel and then add two tablespoons of water once they were in the dish. You will probably see immediately that there is no need to dry the apples if you are going to add water to them. It took me years to spot this.
Now stir in some Demerara sugar and imagine your grandmother saying, as she did every time: ‘I like using Demerara because of the crunch.’
Pile the crumble over the fruit, smooth it out a bit with the back of a spoon, and cook at 180 degrees for 35-40 minutes. You want juices to be just bubbling over the top.
We always had it with single cream but a thick blanket of custard is pretty good too.