The romantic in me thinks that, should the house ever catch on fire, I would save my wedding photo album or the framed picture of my parents on my desk. The pragmatist in me would grab my immigration paperwork and a phone charger. Perhaps my slippers. But when I really think about it, and when I consider all that I own that can’t be reissued or replaced, it is my well-thumbed copy of Reader’s Digest “The Cookery Year” that would come with me.
This book is my go-to for everything. Pancakes. Soups. Proper mincemeat. How to dress a crab. What fruits are really in season. I spent hours pouring over the near life-like illustrations as a child, refusing to believe that half of the exotic fruits depicted actually existed, while the other half of me gawped at the fact that they listed a banana as an “exotic fruit”. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realised that in 1973, when this was first published, bananas really were exotic, along with the grapes, watermelon, and pomegranate, fruits that are commonplace in any supermarket. The recipes on the other hand are outdated and border on comical. Of all the plates they chose to photograph, they had to chose the most 70s dishes. I’m talking cock-a-leekie soup, turkey escalopes cordon bleu, brains in curry sauce (page 145 if you’re curious) to name but a few.
But it’s the quintessentially British recipes that are my most frequented pages. And as autumn speeds towards us here in Ohio, I wanted nothing more than apple crumble, ideally served with skin-on custard, but I could settle for cream. Crumble isn’t well known in these parts, people are more into cobblers and pies. But knowing that I only had a few weeks left of the blackberry harvest, I turned to page 347, skimmed the recipe, tweaked it slightly, and got to it. Below is my take on Apple Crumble.
1lb GRANNY SMITH APPLES
1tbs MIXED SPICE (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg)
GRATED RIND OF HALF A LEMON
6oz PLAIN FLOUR
3oz UNSALTED BUTTER
1/2oz DEMERARA SUGAR
1/2 cup CHOPPED PECANS
Preheat oven to 400f, grease a sizable oven proof dish.
Peel, core and slice the apples into “pinky finger nail” size pieces, sprinkle with the sugar, lemon rind and all spice, and mix gently with the blackberries to ensure an even distribution.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, and cut the butter into it. Lightly rub the butter between your fingers until broken down into crumbs. Then mix in the sugar and spoon over the fruit mix.
Sprinkle the topping with the demerara sugar and pecans, and bake for 40-45 minutes until the fruit bubbles and the topping is golden.