We are in blackberry heaven at the moment. There are wild brambles growing along the canal towpath and at the sides of all of the footpaths around here. A neighbour also has the most prolifically-fruiting blackberry bramble, which handily hangs over the fence behind our house, at perfect picking height.
Robin has been out picking blackberries today while I went across to what we used to call the ‘bottle bank’ but now seems to be known by the euphemism ‘mixed recycling’. I’m confused about this new term. There’s never anything very mixed about our recycling apart from the fact that the beer bottles are mixed up with the wine bottles and occasionally there’s the excitement of a stray mini Prosecco bottle – does that count or do we have to have cardboard and stuff as well? I keep expecting some kind of recycling official to come over and tut about the lack of variety in my offerings.
Going to ‘mixed recycling’ involves taking the car across to Tesco car park – it’s a drive of only about two minutes, but involves traffic lights on the steep canal bridge in both directions. After driving an automatic car for 12 years, I finally decided on this trip that I had to get over my irrational fear of driving a manual car, as automatics cost almost twice as much to rent. I don’t want to go into too many details of the shameful misdemeanours I’ve committed over the last few weeks (stalling at lights, stalling before I’d even set off, rolling backwards on the canal bridge, rolling backwards at most sets of traffic lights in Warwickshire – and a few in Worcestershire, riding the clutch around corners, stopping in third and then forgetting to change to first when pulling away from junctions, not disengaging the handbrake properly… I won’t go on, it’s not pretty). Shall we just say that if there was a gearbox equivalent of the Childline organisation, our little car would definitely have the number on speed dial and I’d have been arrested weeks ago.
Still, with only one week to go, I seem to have got the hang of it, but by the time we come again, I will no doubt be back to Square One.
So, what to do with the blackberries (that would be after we’d first cleaned our white timber floors where Robin had had a blackberry stuck to his shoe and then walked through the entire bottom two floors of the house). An inspection of the fridge and freezer yielded a few apples that we are using to feed the blackbirds (sorry Mrs Blackbird, my turn), about half a dozen frozen plums and the remains of a bag of mixed berries, the first half of which I used to make a summer pudding a couple of weeks ago. A couple of handfuls of blackberries were just the thing to make that lot into a crumble fit for a king.
I love crumbles, but we never had them when I was growing up. My mum made pies, jams and sponge puddings from blackberries, but I think she had a thing against crumbles. I shall be in trouble when my mum reads this, especially as she’s only a few engine stalls away from where we are at the minute, bur really, when I think about it, a crumble-free childhood is bordering on deprivation. No wonder I look practically malnourished.
You can use absolutely any mix of fruit for this. I ended up with about 650g mixed fruit – that consisted of two small apples, half a dozen unappetising frozen plum halves (obviously it’s not essential to use unappetising bendy fruit, you could get something fresh and tasty, but this is just the kind of thing to use up a few bits and pieces that have been hanging about in the freezer), a couple of big handfuls of blackberries and about 350g of mixed frozen berries that I bought from the supermarket for another project. You could use just blackberries and apples, or rhubarb, or whatever rocks your fruity crumble boat on the day.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m giving you a recipe for crumble, as it seems quite unnecessary, but this is crumble deluxe, really yummy and with a topping just slightly more tasty than your average school dinner offering (though obviously in my deprived childhood, school dinner crumble was the only one I was going to get, so I’m not knocking it).
Summer fruit crumble (serves 6)
You will need an ovenproof dish. Mine was a 22cm round pie dish, but any shape is fine.
650g mixed fruit (eg. sliced apples, berries, currants, sliced plums, sliced rhubarb)
1 – 2 tablespoons white sugar (adjust according to how sweet your fruit is)
65g white or wholemeal flour
65g butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
65g brown sugar (the dark stuff is best if you have it)
65g porridge oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Mix the fruit and white sugar and tip into your baking dish.
In a small processor, process the flour, butter or margarine, cinnamon and brown sugar until it is just beginning to clump together.
Add the oats and pulse for a few seconds. (If you don’t have a processor, rub the butter, flour and sugar together and then stir in the oats).
Spoon the topping over the fruit and spread evenly. Don’t worry if it looks overly full – the fruit will shrink down as it cooks – it is a good idea to stand the dish on a tin lined with a sheet of foil, just in case the fruit boils over.
Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden brown and crisp, then let stand for at least 20 minutes before eating. This is also delicious served cold. Serve with cream, ice cream or creamy yoghurt.