Salted toffee brownies

Salted toffee or caramel brownies
Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe isn’t going to win any brownie (seewhatIdidthere?) points for originality – the combination of sea salt and caramel or toffee, essentially sweet and salty, is not going to be a revelation to you. However, this is what I’ve been baking lately and goddammit if it isn’t delicious, so it feels only fair to share the recipe in case you’re in need of a ridiculously indulgent treat. Because that’s exactly what this is, and it will satisfy any chocolate cravings instantly.

Last month we were given a joint birthday hamper filled with some amazing goodies, including this toffee crème:
Toffee creme
(There’s also a mocha crème that we haven’t opened yet, which I think shows incredible restraint. When that day comes….uhhhhhh.)

Anyway, this. Is. The. Bomb. It’s brilliant on top of vanilla ice cream, and obviously it can be eaten straight out the jar with a teaspoon (been there, done that), but I thought I’d have a go at using it in some baking, and salted brownies was the obvious answer. This recipe is based on the best brownie recipe ever. Of course, you don’t need to have this particular product to make the recipe – you could use any caramel or toffee that you already have or can find in the shops, as long as it’s soft enough to swirl through the brownie mix.

One year ago:
Chocolate fondant
Rhubarb curd and rhubarb cordial

Two years ago:
Banana bread
Triple chocolate cheesecake
Slow cooked BBQ pulled pork
Ingredients for salted caramel brownies
Ingredients (makes about 16 brownies)
190g dark chocolate
190g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
115g plain flour
½ tsp sea salt flakes, plus a few extra pinches for the top
3 or 4 tbsp of toffee crème (or other toffee/caramel product!)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 20x20cm baking tin with a knob of butter and line it with baking parchment, leaving a little paper hanging over two of the sides – this will make it much easier to lift the brownie out at the end.
Greasing and lining a baking tray for brownies
2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a pan with the butter. Cook over a very gentle heat until everything is completely melted, then leave off the heat for about 5-10 minutes to cool a little.
Butter and dark chocolate to be melted
Melted dark chocolate and butter
Melted dark chocolate and butter
3. Whisk together the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract, then pour in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and mix well.
Eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract
Beating together the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract
Mixing the wet ingredients together
4. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and, if you’re lazy like me and can’t be bothered sieving it, give it a quick whisk to aerate the flour and remove any lumps.
Whisking plain flour and salt
5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Adding the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients
Brownie mix
6. Spoon the brownie batter into the lined tin and spread out evenly.
Pouring the brownie mix into the lined baking tray
7. Dollop teaspoons of your chosen toffee or caramel around the top of the brownie and swirl gently with a skewer. Sprinkle with a couple of pinches of sea salt flakes.
Adding spoons of toffee cream to the brownie mix
Swirling caramel through the brownie mix
Sprinkling the brownies with Maldon sea salt flakes
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and cracking on top, but still squidgy in the middle. Remove from the tin using the handy excess pieces of baking parchment and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Brownies out the oven ready to cool
Enjoy with a big glass of cold milk and a satisfied groan.
Salted toffee or caramel brownies
Salted toffee or caramel brownies

Lemon curd and passion fruit pavlova

Easter pavlova with lemon curd and passion fruit 1
I love an event or special occasion. Whether it is birthdays or anniversaries or Christmas or Halloween or Burns Night or even an election, I’ll take advantage of pretty much any excuse to do the two things I enjoy the most: planning and partying. I’m not even 100% sure which aspect I enjoy more given my obsession for lists and timetables and A PLAN, but there is nothing better than new decorations, nice drinks, great food, even better company and perhaps even a few days off. Even Valentine’s Day, which I will scorn for being an utterly commercialised “holiday”, gives us a (sometimes much-needed) excuse to make time for our other halves, even if it’s just the simple effort of lighting some candles and having a tasty dinner at home together. Anyway, the latest excuse for some planning and indulgence is Easter weekend.

I think Easter weekend is particularly appealing to me because it marks the change of the seasons from dark, cold winter to cheerful spring. The clocks are going forward, the days are getting longer, the daffodils and crocuses have opened up in all their beauty and the spring break is tantalisingly near. So, hot cross buns and a lamb leg have been bought, the flat is full of spring blooms, Easter eggs are hidden away until Sunday and a long walk has been planned to make the most of the bank holiday Monday. All we need now is for 5pm to arrive and the weekend to begin.

I actually made this particular pavlova for my mum’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, but I think it would be the perfect pudding for a big Easter Sunday roast dinner. This is a relatively straightforward recipe to make for a large crowd, the component parts can be made ahead and assembled at the last minute and most importantly it is totally delicious. The outside of the meringue should be completely dried out and crisp but the inside should be soft, almost cloud-like, in texture. The cool topping balances the sweet meringue, especially with the addition of yogurt to balance the richness of double cream which I think can be too much on its own sometimes, and the passionfruit and lemon add the final sharp bite to the dish. Finally, if you’re looking for something to do with your leftover egg yolks, treat yourself to some homemade garlic mayonnaise, perhaps as an accompaniment for a bank holiday brunch or dinner.

One year ago:
The Easiest-Ever Loaf: Crusty no-knead white bread
Vanilla espresso martini

Two years ago:
Guacamole and zingy bean dip
Mini lemon curd tarts
Ingredients for lemon curd and passion fruit pavlova
Ingredients (makes one large pavlova to serve 6-8 people)
4 medium egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp corn flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
250ml double cream
200g Greek yogurt
3 tbsp lemon curd (homemade is particularly good – find a recipe here)
3 passion fruit

1. Preheat the oven to 10C/130C fan/Gas Mark 2. Separate out the egg whites and whisk until they form stiff peaks.
Whisking egg whites to stiff peaks for meringue
2. Add the caster sugar slowly, a dessert spoon at a time, whisking continuously until the sugar is fully incorporated and you have a thick, glossy meringue mixture. Add the vanilla extract, corn flour and white wine vinegar and whisk again. (Note: the corn flour and vinegar might seem odd here, but they are essential to give the pavlova its signature soft centre).
Whisking caster sugar, vanilla, corn flour and vinegar into egg whites for pavlova
3. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with baking parchment and, as always when making meringues, putting a dot of meringue mixture under each corner of the paper to stick it down. This will make shaping the pavlova much easier.
Preparing to shape the pavlova on a lined baking sheet
4. Using a spatula or a large spoon, pile the meringue mixture into the middle of the baking sheet and then gently spread it into a rough circle, making a slight dip in the middle where most of the filling will go. Use the back of a spoon to create little peaks around the pavlova if you like.
Pavlova ready to be baked in the oven
Pavlova ready to be baked in the oven
5. Bake the pavlova for 50 minutes and then turn the oven off and allow it to cool completely inside. (Don’t forget it’s in there if you come to use the oven later! I learned this lesson the hard way…)
Pavlova after baking and cooling in the oven
6. Whisk the cream until very loosely whipped and stir through the Greek yogurt.
Whipped double cream mixed with greek yogurt
7. Add 3 generous spoons of lemon curd to the cream mixture and fold through. It’s up to you (and the texture of your lemon curd!) whether you leave this a little rippled or whether you combine it completely with the cream.
Whipped double cream, greek yogurt and lemon curd for the pavlova filling
Adding lemon curd to the cream and yogurt mix
Folding lemon curd through the whipped cream and yogurt mix
8. Remove the seeds and juice from the passion fruits.
Passion fruit seeds for topping the pavlova
9. When you are nearly ready to serve, carefully transfer the pavlova to a serving platter and remove the baking parchment.
Preparing to fill and top the pavlova
10. Pile the cream and yogurt filling into the middle of the pavlova and gently spread it towards the edges. Finally, sprinkle over the passion fruit topping with a teaspoon.
Easter pavlova with lemon curd and passion fruit
Serve soon after topping the pavlova, although if you have leftovers they will keep in the fridge for a day or two. Cut into generous slices and enjoy as the perfect end to your Easter Sunday dinner!

Gluten-free orange drizzle cake (and a 2nd birthday)

Slice of gluten-free orange drizzle cake
Happy Birthday to me! Well, not me really, but my wee blog is turning two. How time flies. While I celebrate with a large wedge of cake (more on that in a second), let me extend a heart-felt thank you to everybody who visits my little piece of the internet. Thank you to my friends and family who still show enthusiasm for new posts, to old friends who have messaged to tell me how much they enjoyed a particular recipe, to strangers on the other side of the world who share their thoughts, and to my other half who puts up with me insisting on taking 20 pictures of our plates before he can start his dinner (although, he does get to eat all these recipes, so it’s not exactly a terrible deal…).

This week’s recipe was inspired by two different people. The first was a lovely friend who came for dinner last Wednesday and who can’t eat gluten (like, seriously, not just one of these “oh eating a loaf of bread makes me bloated”…tell me something I don’t know); so I needed a completely gluten-free pudding. To me this shouldn’t be a prerequisite to a pudding that isn’t sweet and squidgy and indulgent. Or, more importantly, it shouldn’t mean no cake.

In my quest to find a great gluten-free cake recipe I came across an old folder with an assortment of allergy-friendly baking recipes. Years ago, just after I left high school, I worked with a guy, Paul, who had severe allergies not only to gluten, but also eggs, nuts and legumes. Yup. I’m pretty sure he lived off potatoes, meat and cheese. Although, on second thoughts, that doesn’t sound too bad… Anyway, an allergy to gluten, eggs and nuts makes for an incredibly tricky baking challenge. This folder I found was a collection of various recipes, which (if memory serves correctly) I amalgamated into a few Paul-friendly bakes so that he could get in on the afternoon treats that everyone else in the office got to indulge in. Of course, poor Paul couldn’t have actually eaten this particular recipe because of the eggs and nuts, but in that folder I found a gluten-free lemon cake recipe (I have no idea where I copied it down from I’m afraid!) which used polenta and ground almonds instead of flour. I’ve changed up the lemons for oranges, since it is the season for juicy, sweet oranges and I seem to be developing a theme of orange-flavoured recipes on birthday blogs. I tweaked a few other parts of the recipe and added an orange drizzle topping. This cake is gorgeous: it’s super moist, strong with orange and has a satisfying sugary crunch on top. In fact, there is no reason to save this recipe just for coeliacs, so don’t be put off by the gluten-free billing: everyone deserves a slice of this action!

One year ago:
Orange and milk-chocolate celebration cakes

Two years ago:
No-knead cardamom and cinnamon buns
Ingredients for gluten-free orange drizzle cake
250g butter, softened plus a little extra to grease the cake tin
250g vanilla sugar* or caster sugar
3 large eggs
100g polenta
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 oranges
60g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 23cm cake tin with a little butter and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Butter and vanilla sugar
Creamed butter and vanilla sugar
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
Adding eggs to creamed butter and vanilla sugar
Beating eggs into the creamed butter and vanilla sugar
4. Add the polenta, ground almonds and baking powder and mix to combine.
Adding polenta, ground almonds and baking powder to the cake mixture
Gluten-free orange drizzle cake mixture
5. Zest both the oranges and juice one. Add the zest and juice to the cake mixture and stir again to evenly distribute.
Adding orange zest and juice to the cake mixture
Gluten-free orange drizzle cake mixture and lines cake tin
6. Spoon the mixture into your cake tin and flatten the top as well as you can using the back of a spoon.
Gluten-free orange drizzle cake ready to bake
7. Bake for 1 hour until the cake has risen, the top is a dark golden colour and a skewer comes out clean from the centre. If you’re concerned about the cake browning too much then cover the top loosely with foil about half way through baking.
Gluten-free orange cake after baking
8. Put the cake, still in its tin, on a wire rack. Make the drizzle topping by simply mixing the icing sugar with the juice from the second orange (you might not need all the juice, depending on how thick you’d like the topping to be).
Ingredients for orange drizzle topping
Orange drizzle topping
9. While the cake is still warm, prick lots of holes in it using a cake skewer. Pour over the drizzle topping and leave to cool fully in the tin.
Drizzle topping on gluten-free orange cake 1
This cake is best served the day you baked it, but it will keep for a couple more days in a tupperware tub. Serve with a little crème fraiche if you like.
Gluten-free orange drizzle cake 3
Gluten-free orange drizzle cake 4
* A quick word about vanilla sugar: I’m sure you can buy this in a large supermarket or fancy deli, but to make your own simply fill a tub or jar with sugar and add a split vanilla pod (I used one that I had removed the seeds from for another recipe). Seal, and use as and when you need!

Mango ice-cream with raspberry ripple

Stirring fresh mango puree through whipped cream
Happy New Year from Proof of the Pudding! Or is it bad form to wish you that when January is already nearly over? January can be a hard month, especially where I live as we know there are still a couple of months of dark mornings and evenings to get through, and if we’re to get a bad snow storm this year then it’s yet to come (EDIT: I spoke to soon, it seems this weekend is our first of the season). Sometimes you feel ready to jump into January with gusto: stocking up the cupboards, fridge and fruit bowl with healthy foods, pulling on your gym gear to work off that Christmas dinner and diving back into work at 9am on Monday morning, to-do list at the ready. But sometimes it takes a few sluggish days, or even weeks, to get back into a routine and not want to rush home every evening and immediately get your pyjamas on. However your January started, I hope it’s ending well. Let’s all look forward to February and longer days and Pancake Tuesday!

Now I’m not going to try and pretend that this is in any way a healthy recipe (see double cream and sugar), but it’s certainly refreshing and might be a welcome change from all that trifle and chocolate and Christmas pudding. This is also a satisfyingly straightforward ice-cream recipe which doesn’t require you to have an ice-cream maker (although if you do then by all means use it). The freeze-blend-freeze method ensures that the ice crystals are broken up and gives a smooth texture. Make sure you buy very ripe mangos for this recipe, for both texture and flavour. The squishier the better really. In particular, if you can find alphonso mangos these have an incredible, sweet flavour.

One year ago:
Minestrone soup
Courgette antipasto rolls
Ingredients for homemade mango ice-cream with raspberry ripple
3 large ripe mangos (approximately 1kg)
300ml double cream
100g caster sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
50g frozen raspberries, defrosted

1. Peel and chop the mangos into chunks.
Peeled and chopped ripe mangos
2. Blend the mango to achieve a smooth puree.
Blended fresh mango puree
3. In a large bowl add the cream to the sugar and vanilla extract.
Pouring cream into caster sugar 1
Pouring cream into caster sugar 2
Pouring cream into caster sugar 3
4. Whisk the cream and sugar together until loosely whipped – be very careful not to over whip here.
Whipped double cream, caster sugar and vanilla extract
5. Add the mango puree to the whipped cream and mix well until completely combined.
Adding mango puree to the whipped cream
Stirring fresh mango puree through whipped cream
6. Pour the ice-cream mixture into a loaf tin or tupperware tub and freeze for about 3 hours, or until just frozen.
Ice-cream mix ready to be frozen
7. While the ice-cream is in the freezer, make the raspberry ripple by simply pressing the defrosted raspberries through a sieve to remove the seeds.

8. After a few hours in the freezer, scoop or cut the ice-cream out into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth again.
Blending the ice-cream half way through freezing
9. Pour the mixture back into the tin or tub.
Mango ice-cream in a loaf tin for freezing
10. Drizzle over the raspberry puree and use a skewer to ripple it through the soft ice-cream. Freeze again for a few hours, or until ready to eat.
Adding raspberry puree to the soft mango ice-cream
Rippling raspberry sauce through the mango ice-cream
Take the ice-cream out the freezer about 10 minutes before serving to soften up and make scooping a little easier. Serve with fresh mango or raspberries, or just eat as is. With a spoon. Out the tub. What January diet?
Homemade mango ice-cream with raspberry ripple

Spiced pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting

Spiced pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting 1
GUYS GUYS GUYS. IT’S ONE WEEK TIL CHRISTMAS. One week until we can stuff our faces with turkey and bacon and mince pies (though it would be totally legitimate to have started this already…), rip open beautifully wrapped presents, throw back ill-advised quantities of champagne and sherry and then cry at the last ever episode of Downton. *Sob* (WARNING: to those who know me personally, I won’t be watching this until Boxing Day so approach me with spoilers on pain of horrific death). Below, in the “One year ago” section, are some appropriately festive recipes, but for now let’s celebrate a wonderful product of the season: the pumpkin. Pumpkins are for life, not just Halloween, so make the most of their time in the shops and do some alternative Christmas baking. I’ve posted a few pumpkin recipes in the past (spiced pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie with maple cream), so there are plenty to chose from if you really get into the pumpkin-y swing of things. The recipe for these delicately spiced and deliciously moist muffins is based onthis recipe from BBC Good Food, with just a few tweaks to quantities, spices and method. It’s very similar to a carrot cake batter, and in fact if you’re really averse to the pumpkin idea then you could do a substitution, though I encourage you to give this recipe a try as is.

While we’re on the subject, let’s clear something up: yes, “Halloween pumpkins” sold in the supermarkets are edible! Although grown specifically for carving, resulting in quite tough skin and possibly a more watery flesh and milder flavour, they are perfectly suitable for human consumption. I’ve used “Halloween pumpkins” in this recipe before and it worked like a dream, but you can get lots of different varieties of smaller pumpkins so if you see them in your local shop then give one a go (I used an Onion squash, also known as a Red Kuri squash, for this batch). You could also use butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t available.

One year ago:
Mincemeat puff pastry swirls
Sea salt and brandy truffles
Ingredients for spiced pumpkin cupcakes
Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)
250g coarsely grated pumpkin flesh (approx. 1 small pumpkin)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
175ml sunflower oil
175g soft light brown sugar
80g sultanas
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

180g full fat cream cheese
85g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ Gas Mark 4. Halve your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon.
Small pumpkin for spiced pumpkin cupcakes
Peel and chop the pumpkin into large chunks – use a sharp knife for this and watch your fingers!
Peeling and chopping the pumpkin
2. Coarsely grate the pumpkin until you have about 250g.
Grated pumpkin
3. Beat together the 3 eggs, vanilla extract and oil and vigorously stir the sugar into the mix.
Eggs and vanilla extract
Brown sugar, eggs and vanilla
Mixing the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract
4. Add the pumpkin, sultanas and the zest of the first orange and stir well.
Mixing the pumpkin and sultanas into the wet ingredients
5. Sift in the spices, flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold through the cake mixture until well combined.
Adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients
Pumpkin muffin batter
6. Line a muffin tray with 12 cases and spoon the mixture in leaving a few centimetres at the top.
Filling the muffin cases with the cake mixture
7. Bake for 25 minutes and then check that the muffins are ready by inserting a skewer into the middle which should come out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack – the muffins need to be completely cool before icing.
8. To make the icing, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the icing sugar and whisk until light and well combined. You can either add the zest of the other orange at this point or wait till the end to sprinkle it on top. Pop the icing in the fridge to firm up a little.
Cream cheese frosting on the spiced pumpkin muffins
9. Once the muffins are cooled, ice them with the cream cheese frosting and sprinkle over the orange zest if you kept some aside in the previous step.
Spiced pumpkin muffin with cream cheese and orange frosting 3
The muffins will keep well in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, though they are most delicious eaten the day of baking.
Spiced pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting 2

Mushroom stroganoff

Mushroom stroganoff served with rice and fresh coriander
Stroganoff is a traditional Russian stew consisting of chunks of beef cooked in a stock and sour cream sauce flavoured with mustard or tomato paste or both. Nowadays it’s usually flavoured with a generous sprinkling of sweet and smoky paprika – though I’m not sure how traditional this is, it certainly adds a beautiful depth of flavour to the sauce. The warm, creamy sauce makes this a lovely dinner for a chilly autumn evening, piled on a hefty serving of carbs (rice, pasta, mashed potato, thickly cut sourdough toast….wait, where was I?).

Autumn is also the time of year that many varieties of wild mushrooms are in season. I absolutely love mushrooms, and I don’t believe that you’re missing out on anything by substituting the usual strips of beef with mushrooms in this recipe, especially if you can find a mix of different types that are both meaty and packed with flavour. I used a combination of Portobello, chestnut and chanterelle mushrooms, the latter of which were a very exciting find in the local organic grocers. Chanterelles can be found in the UK from late summer all throughout autumn, and I think they are just as exciting (and expensive…) as a piece of good quality steak. You can use whatever variety of mushrooms you prefer or which are available in the shops. Of course if you dislike mushrooms then you can switch back to the traditional beef – use a cut suitable for quick cooking such as rump or sirloin.

One year ago:
Steak pie with puff pastry
Toad in the hole with onion gravy
Easy apple tarts
Ingredients for wild mushroom stroganoff
Ingredients (serves 2)
400g mixed mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tbsp tomato puree
Splash of white wine
100ml vegetable stock
3 tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley to garnish
Rice to serve

1. Prepare the mushrooms. Lightly rinse them if you feel like they’re very grubby, but a wipe with a damp cloth and a quick dust of the gills with a pastry brush should do the job. Slice or halve any large mushrooms so that they are all in similar bite-sized pieces.
Mixed cleaned and sliced mushrooms
2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan until the butter begins to bubble.
Heating butter and olive oil in a large pan
3. Tip in the onion and garlic and mix well in the olive and butter. Cook over a medium heat for about five minutes until the onion has softened.
Frying onion and garlic in olive oil and butter
4. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, mixing well again. Fry quickly until the mushrooms begin to brown, adding a little extra butter if necessary.
Adding mixed mushrooms to the onions and garlic
5. Stir through the paprika, chilli powder, mustard and tomato puree, then add the white wine and allow to bubble for a few minutes.
Adding white wine to the mixed mushrooms
6. Add the vegetable stock and sour cream and stir well. Reduce the heat and cook for another few minutes until the sauce is well combined and the mushrooms are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Adding sour cream to the mushroom stroganoff
Finishing the mushroom stroganoff with seasoning
Serve the stroganoff with rice, or pasta such as tagliatelle if you prefer, and top with fresh parsley.
Mushroom stroganoff served with rice
Mushroom stroganoff served with fresh coriander

Autumn fruit crumble

Seasonal autumn fruits for a crumble
One of my first ever recipes on this blog was for a rhubarb crumble, spiced with star anise and vanilla and served with homemade custard. While rhubarb crumble is a celebration of spring, this recipe is the ultimate, turbo-charged celebration of autumn. I mentioned the combination in that first post about crumble: a mixture of apples, pears, plums and brambles. These fruits are the absolute joys of autumn produce and come in a wide variety throughout the season, so you can make this recipe slightly differently each time. Use blackberries instead of wild brambles (though picking wild brambles is another joy of autumn in itself), use eating apples instead of cooking apples, use whatever types of ripe plums you can find at the shops.

One ingredient I highly recommend making the effort to get hold of is a bag of damsons, which are tiny darkest-blue plums that have an incredible jammy texture when cooked. They’re also quite sour after cooking, which balances out all the sweetness in the rest of the crumble. They are difficult to find in supermarkets, but you should have better luck getting them at a greengrocer.

I wished I’d had ground almonds in the cupboard when I made the crumble topping, as I think almonds go so well with fruits like pears and plums. Add a few tablespoons to the mixture with the oats if you have some. This makes a very generous quantity of crumble topping, which freezes very well, so if you don’t end up using it all just pop the remainder in a labelled plastic bag and store in the freezer for another time.

One year ago:
Stewed apples and plums
Ingredients for seasonal autumn fruit crumbe
Ingredients (makes one very large crumble to feed a crowd)
150g cold unsalted butter
250g plain flour
75g soft light brown sugar
50g oats
1.5kg autumn fruit (approximately – I used 3 cooking apples, 3 pears, 8 greengages and 3-4 handfuls each of damsons and brambles)
2 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Cut the butter into small cubes.
Chilled butter cut into small cubes
2. Add the butter to the plain flour and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Adding chilled butter to the plain flour
Rubbing the cold butter into the plain flour
3. Add the sugar and mix well.
Adding light brown sugar to the butter and flour mix
4. Add the oats, and ground almonds if using, and mix again. Set the crumble topping aside.
Adding oats to the crumble topping mix
5. Prepare the fruit by peeling, coring and chopping the apples and pears into chunks and removing the stones from the plums and halving. Arrange the fruit in a large, deep ovenproof dish.
Preparing the seasonal autumn fruit 1
6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the fruit.
Sprinkling sugar over the seasonal autumn fruit
7. Pile the crumble topping over the fruit, pressing down gently with the back of a spoon.
Topping the autumn fruit crumble 1
Autumn fruit crumble ready to bake
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling up to the surface.
Close up of Seasonal autumn fruit crumble
Serve with lashings of warm vanilla custard, with the curtains drawn, the heating on and surrounded by flickering candles. Comfort food done right.
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble served with vanilla custard
Seasonal autumn fruit crumble