It has always been a belief of mine that there is never a single, correct way to cook anything, even apple crumble. There is always some small village somewhere that has been brewing up its own version of Bolognaise sauce or goulash for centuries. And if you cooked a lasagna with a banana in it, I guarantee there’s a sleepy harbor on a tropical island somewhere that has been doing the exact same thing since a bunch of Venetians got shipwrecked there in the 1700’s. And even if you cooked a banana-lasagna and used rice flour instead of wheat, probably you’d find a few of the families in that seaside village do it that way as well. Try telling them that a lasagna shouldn’t have rice and banana in it; they’d laugh at you.
So I ain’t gonna put here a recipe of apple crumble because I think it’s the best in the world. More, I dunno, like I just feel I should get this out there because time and time again I meet people trying to make one like they would an apple pie – you know, made up all raw and then stuck in the oven. This pretty much always results in failure. And even on the old www, nine out of ten recipes will tell you to do it this way. It’s the wrong way – my recipe is the correct way and, indeed, for the first and probably only time ever, I don’t care which village you’re from.
Apple Crumble (serves from 1 to, ooh, 1000 depending on how small the portions are)
- Apples. You can also chuck in any old fruit you might have around, maybe except for citrus fruits. As long as you have mostly apples this is a good moment to get rid of that half-eaten, tasteless melon or uber-ripe peaches.
- Flour, margarine and sugar for the crumble. The flour is best white because that’ll cook quicker. Using margarine instead of butter means your apple crumble remains suitable for vegans. And it also just works better with margarine. You use, like, just a few teaspoons of sugar compared to a handful of the margarine and several handfuls of flower. The sugar is there, sure, to make it sweet – more importantly the crumble gets a bit of crunch. You could miss out the sugar even – the fruit should be sweet enough by the time you’ve finished with it.
- Cut the fruit into big chunks and put in a pot with half an inch of water and the cinnamon. It’s important to have big chunks – large apple should only be quartered, say. You can also leave the core in – only the pips, stalks and stones need be removed.
- Boil it up then simmer for at least 20 minutes.
- Mix up the flour, margarine and sugar in a bowl. With your hands, rub everything together, until you get a coarse but even crumble mixture.
- Heat the oven up, if you’re going to use an oven.
- Pour out the stewed fruit into a baking dish and spread out a top layer of the crumble.
- Put it in the oven until the crumble is starting to brown.
- The proportion of fruit to crumble can vary, of course.
- The oven cooking stage will vary quite a bit. The ideal would be to put the dish under a grill in an enclosed oven. The crumble needs to cook from the top because the fruit layer has already been cooked and is actively steaming the bottom of the crumble layer as soon as you’ve added them together. If the source of heat is below the dish then put the dish as high as possible in the oven.
- You can even cook the crumble separately in a pan if you don’t have an oven. For best results put a very thin layer of raw crumble on top of the steaming stewed fruit so that you end up with a variation in the crumble texture – from soft to crunchy.
- If you haven’t used enough sugar in the crumble or the fruit was not sweet enough then the traditional sweetening method would be to use custard or cream. A quick vegan alternative is to blend tofu and water with sugar, lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt.
Basically, you’ll never find a recipe that tells you to stew the fruit rather than baking it. But stewing with a little cinnamon does incredible things to the flavor of apple especially. With water in there the resultant juices help steam the crumble to perfection whatever type of oven you’re using.
Ultimately then this recipe is also much better value for you, the people who eat it and the environment that has produced it. For a start it’s vegan and you can use a wide variety of fruit and even some vegetables without bringing chaos to the flavor. And because oven time is at a minimum you save on energy. And because you save money you can make a bigger crumble and feed more people…