If you follow me on Instagram you already know that my family and I live in Notting Hill in London. We live in a typical Victorian family home that we rent from an American couple who have lived here for two decades and who have relocated south and east for a few years for work. Their house (currently our home) is 4-stories tall and fairly narrow and is tucked away on a side street off of the trendy Westbourne Grove shopping strand. It is also a few hundred feet from a recently renovated, and very popular, neighborhood pub. That pub, with its dozen outdoor tables and consistent flow of energetic, young urban clientele, provides a soundtrack of raucous laughter long into each night.
At the end of each day, after putting my children to sleep, I climb up to the top floor and close the windows, blinds and shades that have been open since the morning. Sometimes, when the air is damp and cool, and the days are short, the process of closing off the outside world makes it feel like the walls are closing in around me. When the symphony of sounds from the pub carries on down our street, bouncing off of lampposts and the imposing Catholic church on the corner, it carries me back to cool autumn evenings with friends when we were the source of the clanking and clinking and toasting and voices instead of now when I am just the passive recipient three doors down, drawing the curtains tight for the evening. I am wistful for a moment.
But reality draws me near as I close the curtains. When I check in on my children, pulling their blankets up to their shoulders, kissing their foreheads and stroking their matted hair, I realize that the laughter, the joy, the sounds emanating from a thousand friendships could never quite match the feeling of satisfaction I get at the end of the day when I know they are safe at home played-out and exhausted and deeply, deeply asleep.
Autumn in London comes quickly. The days get short and the temperatures drop. Suddenly those curtains get drawn earlier and we all retreat into our cozy kitchens for the apples, and blackberries, stews and soups that abound. Red wine and crumbles and root vegetables show up on menus and invitations meet for long lazy dinners start to appear. The pub-goers order pies instead of fish-n-chips and drink Guinness instead of white wine.
My preparation for the season is limited to of this season by declaring a stewed blackberry and apple crumble my go-to dessert for the rest of the year. Whether at my house or someone else’s I think this is going to do it. I have tried a few different ways of making the crumble and a few different ways of preparing the fruit – baked raw, stewed first, with and without sugar and spice and a squeeze of lemon here and some orange there. I’ve settled on the recipe below as a combination of flavors and simplicity but use it as a guide and make this recipe your own. Throw in extra apples, skip the blackberries, try some cinnamon or maybe some maple syrup? It sort of doesn’t matter. The crumble is lovely and soft with gentle flakes and a slightly crisp edge. The stewed fruit, as I cook it, is a bit tart – just perfect for balancing out a scoop of ice cream as an ideal finish to a winter’s meal.
Autumn is here. We can’t fight that. Let’s draw the curtains, gather the family and take in the sights, sounds and smells from inside. Spring will be here before we know it and we will be pouring outside of every open door and window. For now, let’s hunker down and create our own raucous laughter all season long.
- 3/4 c. (100g) flour
- 1/2 c. + 1 Tablespoon (120g) sugar
- 1/2 c. + 1 Tablespoon (120g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (50g) rolled oats
- 1/4 lb (115g) very cold butter cut into bean-sized chunks and cooled again after cutting
- 500g cored and peeled apples (about 6)
- 250g blackberries (1 large pack)
- 1 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup (60ml) warm water
- pinch salt
- pinch of cinnamon
- juice of one orange
- Combine all ingredients for the crumble in a large bowl. Either with your fingers or a pastry cutter or two knives combine the ingredients until the bean-sized bits of butter are pea-sized and are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Don't over combine. Odd sized bits of butter and flour are a good thing. Set aside for up to two days.
- Now make the apple mixture.
- Combine all of the apple mixture ingredients (plus the optional ingredients if you are using them) in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for about 30 minutes until the apples are soft and the blackberries have basically disappeared leaving only the rich color of their fruit mixed in with the apples. Remove from heat and set aside (do this up to 2 days in advance - refrigerate until ready to use, bring up to room temperature before cooking).
- Spread the apples evenly in a pan that is about 10" long by 6" wide by 2" deep. Bake at 375F / 176C for 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.
- Serve immediately or set aside, but near the oven, to keep it warm. Serve with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- I highly recommend doubling the recipe and making one crumble one night and making another two nights later. Or making an extra for a friend. Or double the apple + blackberry part and make a deeper crumble. Really, do whatever you want with this. It is kind of indestructible!