Apple crumble & custard

Here’s another one adapted over the years from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Cuisine Bon Marché (see Red Cabbage ). There are countless possible variations with the fruit and/or topping: you should feel free to experiment, and don’t worry about being precise with your quantities. Home-made custard is lush but shop-bought has its own particular ‘charm’ – or you could just use cream or ice cream.

Serves 6

Ingredients

4 bramley apples or 650g fruit of your choice (see recipe)
1 lemon (if using apples)
Optional extras: sultanas, lemon zest, foraged blackberries
120g sugar

For the crumble topping

100g plain flour
a pinch of salt
120g cool unsalted butter, diced
100g ground almonds
100g light brown sugar
50g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g breadcrumbs (fresh or dried) or oats

Method

First make the crumble topping. You can do this by hand but it’s much quicker with a food processor. Whizz the flour, salt, ground almonds and butter together, then add the remaining ingredients, pulsing a few times to mix well. Grease a medium-sided pie dish.

If you’re using apples, squeeze lemon juice onto a shallow plate. Peel, quarter and core the apples one at a time, turning in the lemon juice to stop them discolouring. Slice each quarter thinly and arrange in the pie dish, sprinkling a generous layer of sugar over each apple. You can layer in your optional extras as you go. 

If you’re using fruit that requires pre-cooking (gooseberry, plum, rhubarb), stew it gently with the sugar on a low heat until the juices run. This means you can pile the crumble on top, without it falling between the cracks in the fruit. A scant tbsp of water (or orange juice, with rhubarb) will be enough to stop the fruit burning, but if you’re very careful you may not need any. If you have a cinnamon stick to hand sling that in too. When the fruit is lightly stewed (3-4 minutes with rhubarb, 7-8 for gooseberries, perhaps 10 for plums), pile it into your dish with a slotted spoon.

Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the fruit and bake in a pre-heated moderate oven (170 fan) for 50-60 minutes (apple crumble) or a bit less for stewed soft fruits.

Custard

600ml full-fat milk or cream
Vanilla pod, split, with seeds scraped out
6 egg yolks (save the whites for making meringues or a white chocolate mousse)
50g sugar

Bring the milk or cream almost to the boil with the vanilla pods and seeds. Turn off the heat and leave to cool briefly. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and light. Whisk in half the hot milk/cream (removing the vanilla pod first) and then whisk the mixture back into the remaining milk/cream. Cook over a very low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens slightly. Your finger should leave a clear trail when drawn across the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and strain before serving. If you chill the custard for later use (it can be kept for up to 2 days in the fridge) be careful to reheat slowly: it’s liable to scramble if you zap it in the microwave.

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