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:
Meatloaf
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

Method
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

Individual summer puddings

Homemade summer pudding served with creme fraiche and currants 1
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.
Turning scraps of stale white bread into bread crumbs to freeze
One year ago:
Stuffed courgettes
Ingredients for summer pudding
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.
Sliced stale white bread for summer pudding
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.
Removing the crusts from slices of stale white bread
Lining mini pudding basins with stale white 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.
Summer berries and castor sugar
Summer berries and castor sugar cooked 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.
Cooked summer berries ready to fill pudding basins
Filling the bread lined pudding basins with summer berries
Bread lined pudding basins filled with summer berries 3
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.
Topping the pudding basins with circles of stale white bread
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.
Weighting down the individual summer puddings
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.
Homemade summer pudding 1
Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.
Homemade summer pudding served with creme fraiche and currants 2
Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.
Cutting into the mini summer pudding
What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?

Chocolate fondant

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 for melt-in-the-middle chocolate fondants
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.
Pudding tins to be prepared for chocolate fondants
Use upward strokes with a pastry brush to line the sides – this helps the puddings to rise nicely.
Brushing the inside of the pudding tin in upward strokes 1
Brushing the inside of the pudding tin in upward strokes 2
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.
Double line the pudding tins with melted butter
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.
Sprinkle cocoa powder onto the butter to line the tins
3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Melting dark chocolate and butter in a bain-marie
Melted chocolate and butter cooling to room temperature
4. Add a shot of your chosen liquor to the chocolate mixture and stir well.
Adding chocolate liquor to the melted dark chocolate and butter 1
Adding chocolate liquor to the melted dark chocolate and butter 2
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.
Eggs and sugar to be whisked for chocolate fondants
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.
Beating the eggs and sugar to form a thick fluffy mixture
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.
Sifting plain flour into the eggs and sugar mixture
Plain flour sifted into the eggs and sugar mixture
Beating the flour into the eggs and sugar
7. Add the chocolate a bit at a time, beating well to ensure that it incorporates evenly into the batter.
Starting to add the chocolate mixture to the fondant batter
Chocolate and butter fully combined into the fondant 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.
Chocolate fondant batter ready to be poured into tins
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.
Pudding tins filled with fondant batter
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.
Chocolate fondants after baking
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).
Double chocolate fondant
Serve with lashings of double cream or good quality vanilla ice-cream.
Chocolate fondant served with double cream 1
Chocolate fondant served with double cream 2
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.

Peter Rabbit’s Party Cake

Carrot cake for afternoon teaThis 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 for homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
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.
Melted butter mixed with olive oil for carrot cake
3. Mix the fats with the sugar, eggs, and grated carrots and apples.
Mixed wet ingredients
4. Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and fold into the wet mix.
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting 1
Adding the dry ingredients to the wet mixture for carrot cake
Carrot cake batter after mixing wet and dry ingredients
5. Add the milk and raisins to the cake mixture and stir well.
Adding milk and raisins to the carrot cake batter
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.
Pouring the carrot cake batter into the cake tin
Carrot cake ready for baking
7. Turn the cake out and leave to cool while you make the icing.
Baked carrot cake
Cooled carrot cake ready for 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.
Mixing the cream cheese icing
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.
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
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.
Homemade carrot cake
Thanks for the fabulous recipe Auntie Rosie! x

Chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche
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 for homemade dark chocolate mousse
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.
Dark chocolate in a bain marie
Melted dark chocolate
2. Separate the eggs and beat the two yolks together well.
Seperating eggs for homemade chocolate mousse
3. Pour the yolks into the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to form a thick, glossy mixture.
Adding egg yolks to melted chocolate for chocolate mousse
Dark chocolate and egg yolk mixture for` chocolate mousse
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.
Egg whites whisked until stiff
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.
Chocolate mousse to be spooned into dishes
6. Spoon the mixture into two small dishes or glasses and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.
Dark chocolate mousse to be chilled
When you’re ready to serve, top the chocolate mousses with your chosen fruit and a small spoon of crème fraiche.
Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme fraiche 1
Chocolate mousse served with redcurrants and creme 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!

Grilled pineapple with rum

Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugarThis 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 for rum grilled pineapple
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.
Preparing the pineapple quarters
3. Lay the pineapple quarters on a grill tray lined with foil.
Preparing the pineapple quarters
4. Pour a couple of teaspoons of rum over each quarter, followed by the brown sugar.
Topping the pineapple with sugar and rum
5. Place under the hot grill for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbling and the pineapple is warmed through.
Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugar
These are lovely enjoyed by themselves, though you could also serve it with some vanilla, or even rum and raisin, ice cream.
Grilled pineapple with rum and brown sugar

Rhubarb Crumble with Homemade Custard

Pouring homemade custard over rhubarb crumble
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 laid out for rhubarb crumble with homemade custard
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.
Chopped rhubarb in a baking dish
Rhubarb with sugar, vanilla, orange zest and star anise ready to be roasted
Roast for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar has melted into a pink syrup.
Roasted rhubarb with 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.
Cubed butter added to a bowl of flour
IMG_1148
3. Mix in the oats, pine nuts and brown sugar.
Bowl of final crumble topping with oats and pine nuts added
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.
Red bowl and whisk with egg yolks, sugar and cornflour mix
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.
Homemade custard after thickening, the custard coating the back of a wooden spoon
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.
Cooked rhubarb crumble in a white dish

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!

Instagram from annahprice of a bowl of crumble and custard

 
Would you put crumble near the top of your comfort-food list? What are your favourite crumble flavours?