Thursday, March 1, 2012


Why it took me till this January in Cape Town to bake a crumble for the first time, I don't know. I had been reading through my mother's collection of Nigel Slater books - why he is not better known in the States is beyond me. He is one of the best and most prolific food writers out there at the moment. His books are beautiful.

What appeals to me in a crumble is that it's all about fruit. I am a fruit bat. Fruit, flour, butter, sugar. That's it. After several crumbles - apricot, plum, blackberry - I eventually added an egg yolk to the crumbly topping, as it makes it more crisp; it needed a little edge of texture.

Choose your fruit. Plums are excellent, as are any stone fruit. Berries? Blackberries, blueberries, yes, but raspberries would disintegrate too much. Cape gooseberries (ground cherries in the US), are one of the best fillings. Cold-season apples and pears, yes, if you stew them gently for 5 minutes, first.  Guavas, if you can get them and don't mind the seeds (I don't).You need about 40 minutes in the oven - long enough for the juices to ooze out and begin to edge over the pastry. So it's a perfect dessert to pop in the oven while you're eating dinner.

Variations? Grate some lemon zest into the topping (good with blueberries), slosh some Calvados over your apples. Slivovitz over your plums.

You need for the topping:

175 grams/ 6 oz butter
175 grams/6 oz flour
100 grams/3.5 oz sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk

Whizz the butter, flour, sugar and salt in food processor till crumbly. Add the yolk and whizz briefly. The texture of the raw pastry should be somewhere between freshly tilled soil and miniature beach pebbles. If you don't have a food processor (and I don't, but was in my mother's kitchen) rub the butter into the flour as you would for scones, then stir the egg yolk in, mixing lightly with a fork.


Enough fruit to fill a baking dish. Pretty flexible, but I average about 4 cups. No need to peel plums, but apple and pears are best peeled. Peel guavas. Cut large fruit into bite-sizes for even cooking.

Toss the fruit with about 3 Tbps of sugar - this helps the fruity, syrupy juice to accumulate. Add more for tart blackberries, less for sweet plums. A squeeze of lemon gives an extra degree of caramelization.

Pour the sugared  fruit into your baking dish. Crumble the raw pastry over the top, mixing fine and craggy crumbles for an uneven texture. The odd hole is fine for juice-oozing. Bake at 350'F/180'C for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden, the juice bubbling and the kitchen is smelling fruitily irresistible.

Serve with thick cream, strained yogurt, custard or...nothing.


  1. Viva Nigel and crumbles. Are crumbles the best winter puddings of all? I think they might be.

    I think Nige's Appetite might be my favourite cookbook, it sort of changed the way I cook, and made me look at cooking as a series of food ideas that can be used in different ways rather than lists of recipes. That may only make sense to me. xx

  2. No, you are right. The best cookbooks give you ideas.

  3. Mmm, that looks delicious Marie. Crumbles are one of my food obsessions! My favourite filling is cherry (sometimes mixed with apple). It tastes like a dish that would have been eaten in medieval times. A special treat I make once or twice a year.

    I do like a crunchy topping. I've never added an egg to the mixture, but I'll give it a try next time. I find dropping the oven down to 160C and cook for a full hour also helps to crisp up the top.

    (btw in your ingredient list I think it should read 175g flour not sugar?)


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