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 (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
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Cut the butter into small cubes.
Summer pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts; I think it could even give the chocolate fondant a run for its money. The pudding has a nostalgic, exciting feeling for me, partly because it meant that the berries and currants at my dad’s allotment were ripe and ready to be used which in turn signaled that summer was well and truly here, but also because I think it’s the first properly impressive pudding that I learnt to make. It’s a sinfully easy recipe, but turning out a perfectly set pudding and slicing into the stunning pink exterior to reveal the jumble of different summer berries inside is a very satisfying feeling indeed.
This is based on a Katie Stuart recipe (the kitchen goddess that our household regularly turn to for instruction, and who I’ve mentioned many times before), though she makes one large pudding to serve about 6 people. If you’re feeding a crowd then I’d highly recommend this – just double to quantities of fruit and sugar below to fill a 2 pint pudding basin (about 1.1 litres) and you will need to use a bit more of the loaf of bread. If, like me, you’re catering for less people then these make the cutest little treats.
A few tips before we begin: make sure you do use stale bread, so remember to buy a loaf in advance. I bought mine two days before I made these and it worked perfectly. Use whatever combination of summer berries that you prefer or have available, but try to use more redcurrants than other berries. For example, I used 180g redcurrants, 100g raspberries, 100g blackcurrants and 70g raspberries. Katie Stuart recommends 450g redcurrants, 225g raspberries and 225g strawberries for one large pudding (double this recipe). You do need to leave the puddings in the fridge overnight so that they set properly so no short cuts here I’m afraid! Inevitably you will be left with crusts and small cuttings from the slices of bread – throw them into a food processor or blender and blitz to breadcrumbs. They can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for months and used as you require for recipes.
One year ago:
– Stuffed courgettes
Ingredients (makes 3 individual puddings) One loaf of stale white bread (you will use about half of it – the rest will make perfect toast!) 450g summer berries 70g castor sugar
Crème fraiche and extra berries to serve
Method 1. Rinse 3 small pudding basins (150ml capacity each) with cold water and thinly cut about half the loaf into 1cm slices – you can always cut more later if you need it.
2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread and cut 6 circles – 3 small circles for the bottom of the bowls and 3 larger ones to cover the top – and enough wedges to cover the sides of the basins. Firmly press the small circles into the bottom of the basins and do the same with the wedges round the sides. Make sure there are no gaps at all in the bread lining and plug any with small pieces of the leftover bread.
3. Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan and cover with a lid. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until the fruit has softened.
4. Spoon the hot fruit into the pots, ensuring an even distribution of the different types of berries. Fill the basins right to the top, pouring over as much of the juice as possible.
If you have any extra juice left at the end then don’t throw it away – you can pour a little extra liquid over the puddings once they are turned out, especially useful if there are any little pieces of bread that haven’t been completely soaked through.
5. Place the basins on a large plate or tray (some of the juice will probably spill over the top so this keeps your fridge shelves clean!) and gently press the last 3 circles of bread on top of the puddings.
6. Put small plates or saucers on top of each pudding and weight down with tins or other suitably-sized heavy objects. Refrigerate the puddings at least overnight.
7. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each of the puddings and tip out onto small plates. If you have saved some, spoon over a little extra juice.
Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.
Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.
What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?
Ok first, click here and press play. Now I have your attention let’s continue…
It’s either the saviour or the downfall of Masterchef contestants everywhere. If perfected then in the words of Gregg Wallace “Ah, mate, I tell you what, that’s the sort of thing I would dip my head in”. If it doesn’t work then there’s no bigger disappointment and a contestant’s dream will be fading fast. But! I’m here to tell you that it need not be the downfall of the home cook. Sure, it takes a bit of time, and you need to stick to the recipe instructions meticulously, but this is my go-to impressive pudding for a dinner party and it has worked every time. I really hope you give this recipe a go, and please let me know if you do – it’s such a satisfying dessert to make. Good luck!
Ingredients (serves 4) 25g butter, melted 4 tsp cocoa powder 100g dark chocolate 100g butter Large shot of chocolate liquor (or any liquor of your choice) 2 medium eggs, plus two extra yolks 100g caster sugar 100g plain flour
Double cream or ice-cream to serve
Method 1. Brush the inside of four small pudding tins or ramekins with the melted butter.
Use upward strokes with a pastry brush to line the sides – this helps the puddings to rise nicely.
Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, or in the fridge for 30 minutes, and brush on a second layer of butter when the first has hardened. Chill again.
2. Put a teaspoon of cocoa powder into each tin, shake and tip out in order to completely coat the inside – this stops the puddings from sticking to the tins and will guarantee your little cakes will tip out easily after cooking.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie and set aside to cool to room temperature.
4. Add a shot of your chosen liquor to the chocolate mixture and stir well.
Chocolate liquor will result in a deeper, richer chocolate flavour, but coffee or mint liquor, Cointreau or brandy would all work as well.
5. Use an electric whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together.
You need to achieve a really thick, bubbly texture so keep whisking until the mixture turns considerably lighter in colour and the batter leaves a trail from the whisks.
You can of course use a hand whisk, but be warned, you will need guns of steel.
6. Sift the flour into the egg mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add the chocolate a bit at a time, beating well to ensure that it incorporates evenly into the batter.
8. Now you’re ready to fill the pudding tins or ramekins. I find that the easiest and most mess-free way to do this is to transfer the batter into a jug and then pour the mixture into the tins from there.
Fill the tins evenly and then chill in the fridge until ready to cook – wait at least 30 minutes, but you can leave them overnight if you’re preparing ahead.
9. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Place the puddings on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes. I have always found that this timing works perfectly, so I trust it every time and don’t let myself be tempted to take them out sooner or leave them in longer.
The puddings should rise out the tins slightly and be well cooked round the outside, but soft in the centre.
10. Gently tip the fondants out onto small plates or bowls (this should be easy due to the double layer of butter and the cocoa powder in steps 1 and 2).
Serve with lashings of double cream or good quality vanilla ice-cream.
Sit back and revel in the ooh-s and aah-s that will ensue as your guests cut into the fondants and the chocolate centre oozes out. To. Die. For.
This recipe comes from my very lovely Auntie Rosie. My mum has had a hand-written copy tucked away in a folder for years, and it’s really the only go-to carrot cake recipe that you need. It’s very lightly spiced with cinnamon and comes out the oven dense, but deliciously moist thanks to the carrots and apples. A light, fluffy Victoria sponge can be absolute perfection, but sometimes your cravings call for a richer cake, one with the caramel flavour of brown sugar, the softness of cooked fruits and vegetables and small bursts of fudgy raisins throughout. The sourness of the icing on top helps to balance the sweet sponge. It’s a simple cream cheese affair, flavoured with lemon juice and, my own personal addition, orange zest.
Ingredients 115g butter 2 tbsp olive oil 250g carrots, peeled and grated 2 apples, peeled and grated 170g soft brown sugar 2 eggs 200g flour 7 tsp baking powder 1 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp salt 115g raisins
3 tbsp milk
60g icing sugar 250g cream cheese 1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter. 2. Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil.
3. Mix the fats with the sugar, eggs, and grated carrots and apples.
4. Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and fold into the wet mix.
5. Add the milk and raisins to the cake mixture and stir well.
6. Spoon the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean.
7. Turn the cake out and leave to cool while you make the icing.
8. To make the icing simply beat together the icing sugar, cream cheese, lemon juice and orange zest. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to ice the cake.
9. Once the sponge is completely cool, spoon the cream cheese frosting onto the cake and spread evenly. Leave like this, or decorate in whatever way takes your fancy: I dotted some orange food colouring gel around the top of the cake and then used a skewer to swirl it through the icing.
This carrot cake doesn’t need any extras, like cream, on the side whether it’s served up mid-afternoon or for pudding. All you need is a generous wedge of cake, and perhaps a cup of tea.
Thanks for the fabulous recipe Auntie Rosie! x
It feels like there’s always a long gap between my latest blog posts, since I’ve only been posting one recipe a week for a while now. Life has been busy, especially what with a certain political event happening in my country next Thursday (oh, and I guess there’s that PhD thing to be getting on with too). As much as a healthy dose of democracy is wonderful (and necessary) in life, at times what you really need is a respite from excessive politics. And what is the greatest antidote to politics? No, not alcohol: that is fuel of politics (or at least, “politics” around the dinner table with friends and family). Chocolate. Chocolate is the answer.
This chocolate mousse recipe could not be simpler if it tried – in fact, it comes from a children’s cookery book that we absolutely loved as kids. Posh it up with berries and cream if you want to serve for a fancy dessert, but really this can be whipped up in an instant (barring the chilling time in the fridge) if life is getting just a bit much and you need a large dose of comfort.
Ingredients (serves 2) 60g good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids) 2 eggs Sea salt Berries, or other fruit, to decorate
Crème fraiche for serving
Method 1. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a bain marie (a bowl placed over a pan of water, without the bowl actually touching the water) over a low heat. Heat slowly until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to allow the chocolate to cool.
2. Separate the eggs and beat the two yolks together well.
3. Pour the yolks into the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to form a thick, glossy mixture.
4. Add a large pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until the whites are fluffy and make stiff peaks when you lift the whisk.
5. Now the whisked whites need to be combined with the chocolate mixture – this is the trickiest step as you want to retain as much of the air that you just whisked into the whites as possible, so that the mousse has a lovely light texture. A good technique is to add about a third of the whites to the chocolate and stir fairly briskly to combine well and loosen the chocolate mixture. Now add another third of the whites, but this time fold gently with a large metal spoon until just combined – this should be a lot easier since the first batch of egg white went in. Finally fold in the remaining egg white, again folding gently.
6. Spoon the mixture into two small dishes or glasses and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.
When you’re ready to serve, top the chocolate mousses with your chosen fruit and a small spoon of crème fraiche.
This is a rich pudding, with quite a bitter taste from the dark chocolate. You can use a lower coca content if you don’t like that bitter edge, but some gorgeously sweet berries will balance everything out otherwise. Comfort eat away!
This is an almost embarrassingly easy dessert recipe. It’s perfect for a last-minute pudding panic, for using up ripe pineapple or for a dinner party where you really want to keep the cooking simple. Although it’s incredibly quick and straightforward, this is a super tasty and refreshing dish. The sugar on top becomes dark and caramelized with a bitter taste, the rum gives a light kick and if you’ve picked a perfectly ripe pineapples then the fruit is sweet and juicy.
Top tip: to check whether a pineapple is ripe before buying, gently pull on one of the leaves. If it comes away easily then the pineapple is ripe, if not then root around for another one.
Ingredients (serves 4) 1 ripe pineapple 4-6 tsp brown sugar
Small shot of dark rum
Method 1. Heat the grill to high. 2. Cut the pineapple into quarters – if you’d like to make this easier then you can cut the top off, but I think it looks prettier to keep it on. Use a sharp knife to remove the hard core and then slice down to (but not through) the skin at 2-3cm intervals.
3. Lay the pineapple quarters on a grill tray lined with foil.
4. Pour a couple of teaspoons of rum over each quarter, followed by the brown sugar.
5. Place under the hot grill for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling and the pineapple is warmed through.
These are lovely enjoyed by themselves, though you could also serve it with some vanilla, or even rum and raisin, ice cream.
Crumble has to be one of the ultimate comfort-food puddings. It’s simple, sweet and stodgy, plus anything that can be served with custard is already winning. The choice of the crumble base can be whatever fruit you fancy – apple crumble is a classic, gooseberry is my personal favourite and in the autumn it’s amazing with a seasonal combination of apples, pears, plums and brambles. Rhubarb is in season, roughly, between late December and June. Forced rhubarb, which has been grown in the dark, has beautiful bright pink stalks and pale yellowish leaves and is available in the earlier months of the year. This was what I saw on the shelves on Sunday and it had to be mine. The smell of fresh rhubarb reminds me of being little and dipping raw stalks into mounds of sugar – sometimes the simple things in life are the best.
This was my first attempt at home made custard, and I have to say it was easy-peasy. This is not a boast – I guarantee you that, provided you can whisk and stir, you can make homemade custard too.
I think that one of the nice things about crumble is that you can tailor the topping to your own tastes and whatever you have in the cupboards. If you like a plain topping then just go by my mum’s basic recipe of 250g flour, to 125g butter and 60g sugar. Otherwise get creative – oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, pine nuts, desiccated coconut, sesame seeds, even granola, are all delicious.
Ingredients (serves 6 to 8) 4 sticks of rhubarb, about 400g 40g golden caster sugar Zest of 1 orange 1 star anise
A few grinds of ground vanilla beans or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
150g plain flour 50g ground almonds 125g chilled butter, cut into small cubes 40g oats 30g pine nuts
60g light brown muscovado sugar
500ml milk 4 egg yolks 70g caster sugar
1½ tbsp cornflour
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6. Chop the rhubarb into pieces approximately 2-3 inches long. Lay snuggly in a baking dish and sprinkle with the golden caster sugar, orange zest, star anise and vanilla.
Roast for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar has melted into a pink syrup.
2. Add the chopped butter to the flour and ground almonds. Use your finger tips to rub the butter into the flour and almonds. The aim is to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients so that you are left with a “breadcrumb” texture.
3. Mix in the oats, pine nuts and brown sugar.
4. Whisk together the egg yolks, caster sugar and flour. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just at the boiling point, then remove from the heat.
5. Add the hot milk to the egg yolks a little at a time, whisking continuously – no scrambled eggs here please! Put the mixture back on a low heat for 5-10 minutes. Make sure you stir constantly and remove from the heat as soon as the mixture is thick, so as to avoid the horror of lumpy custard.
6. Spoon the crumble topping over the roasted rhubarb and bake for 30 minutes (still at 200C/180C fan/Gas 6) until the topping is golden brown and the rhubarb juice is starting to bubble up the sides.
If you want to make the custard ahead of time then a good tip is to transfer the custard to a jug or bowl and cover with cling film directly touching the custard. This stops the custard forming a skin on top. When you are ready to eat, put the custard back into a pan and reheat slowly. Or serve the custard cold – this might gross some people out, but personally I think cold custard is the food of gods.
We enjoyed this on Sunday night after dinner, sat in front of the last episode of Season 3 of Game of Thrones (mum and dad are catching up). So excited for the new season to start!
Would you put crumble near the top of your comfort-food list? What are your favourite crumble flavours?