Mmmm. You can't beat good, old-fashioned desserts like your mother used to make, can you? And while it seems mad to be thinking of autumn dishes when we haven't (in the UK) barely had a summer, the fruit on the blackberry brambles are ripening, we're just about to hit September, and this means autumn nights are drawing in.
I collected a few blackberries locally while out walking the dogs yesterday (I daren't tell you what I used to bag them in, but it was clean!), and so decided rather than try and do something whacky with the fruit, I'd put together a simple, warming and tasty vegan take on a crumble. The result was these delicious little pots of homely goodness.
The ginger added to the filling in my recipe here really gives it some extra kick - for the colder nights that will no doubt be upon us soon (cry!) - and it also really helps enhance the flavour of the autumn fruit.
Even though blackberries are currently in season - if you can go out and find some in your surrounding countryside or parks, then you will save a lot of money, as berries are always quite expensive I find, even when in season.
Just a tip that I learned from my Granny too - soak your hand-picked blackberries in a large bowl of salty, cold water for an hour or so before using, just to make them extra clean. Then drain and rinse to make them ready for your recipe.
This recipe can easily become a gluten-free version if you use a commercial gluten-free flour. The flour is the only gluten-containing ingredient and the recipe isn't one where the gluten is needed all that much. There won't be any real difference in opting for gluten-free, though I have just used standard flour because it is cheaper (and I had no gluten-free requirements - that is, my dad! - while baking this).
This is a really easy recipe which makes a welcoming, hug-of-a-pudding. You can serve these individual crumbles with vegan custard for some extra warmth and taste of home-comforts (you may need to turn them in another bowl), or try a dollop of vegan ice-cream on the top, if you want the contrast of the cold.
Suffice to say, these Autumn Blackberry & Ginger Crumbles will be featuring quite predominantly in my kitchen over the next couple of months. They are just too good not to eat more of.
Autumn Blackberry & Apple Ginger Crumbles
Makes 4 individual servings
4 small red autumn apples, cored and chopped into 2cm pieces (peel left on)
2½ cups / 375g blackberries
⅓ cup / 50g brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1½ tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons water
Pinch of salt
¾ cup / 95g plain white flour (gluten-free or standard)
⅓ cup / 50g brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup / 50g vegan margarine*
(*I recently discovered that most vegan margarines use palm oil, which alhough are technically vegan, the fact that its production means massive rainforest destruction, driving orangutan populations to the brink of extinction, makes it a cruel and harmful product. Therefore, I would suggest using caution when choosing a brand. I have not yet done enough research to know whether there is such a thing as 'sustainable palm oil', but I have found Biona brand which says their palm oil comes from a sustainable project in Colombia).
1. Preheat the oven to 215 Celsius. Arrange four ramekin-style pots, approx 6.5cm deep and 8 to 9cm diameter, on a baking sheet.
2. In a mixing bowl, mix together just the dry ingredients for the crumble topping and leave aside.
3. Take a saucepan and put the chopped apple, sugar, water, and salt in it. Bring to a low, bubbling simmer on a medium-high heat, and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar and water mixture has thickened (though you don't want it to disappear entirely).
4. Add the ginger and lemon juice, stir well and then remove from the heat. Now stir in the cornflour and mix well, and add the blackberries. Mix and set aside.
5. Now prepare the topping. Melt the vegan margarine so it has just melted (not so it is hot), then slowly drizzle into the dry flour mix. Use a metal spoon to mix quickly while you pour in, to ensure the mixture forms a crumbly appearance. Continue to break up the mixture into crumbs with the spoon once all the margarine has been added. Leave aside.
6. Divide the blackberry and apple mixture with a spoon into each of the pots, trying to keep the amounts of fruit evenly distributed in each pot. Once they are filled (there should be a gap of about an inch if you have used pots a similar size to mine), then divide and sprinkle the crumb mixture onto each pot.
7. Place the pots on their baking tray into the oven, and bake on the high setting for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 190 degrees and leave the crumbles to bake for about another 15-20 minutes – until the topping has browned and some of the filling is nicely bubbling around the sides.
8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly for about 10 minutes (so you don't burn your mouth when eating!), then serve with a dollop of vegan ice-cream, or some vegan custard.