Thursday, 22 January 2015

A humble crumble to start the new year!

Oh goodness, a new year has started and I am desperately trying to be good, but it’s so difficult, especially when you're are surrounded by smug so-and-so’s knee-deep in dry January... sadly I don’t think my constitution could stand it, nor my social diary! But I am back dear readers, ready for another year of fun and frolicking. Do I have a resolution?... no, except to be better about posting on this blog as I noticed it seemed to tail off a bit last year. 

Perhaps when I was berated yesterday, by a client, for not posting enough was a wake up call, telling my poor old fingers that they should once again commit themselves to the keyboard and tap out more pointless musings. 

So where to begin as the chill winds whip at my windows and the ice melts in my tumbler of Canadian Club? Why not with a cheeky recipe, something rib-sticking to really warm the 'cockles of ye heart' and foster good feelings in these lean times! 

It gives me great satisfaction that the world’s most famous pear is a thoroughly British variety. Developed by a green-fingered school teacher of South Berkshire in a little village called Aldermaston, it the legend has the ring of Thomas Hardy about it. When ripe it has a lusciously sweet, fragrant flavour and, for me, is the perfect cooking medium as it holds its shape making it suited for use in a crumble - in direct opposition to those who like their fruit stewed to the point where even a toothless nonagenarian could eat it! 

Many a crumble purist will also be taken aback by my favoured choice of topping, citing that the traditional butter and flour crumb or oatmeal are far superior, that’s their view. This topping has a wonderful crunch and a pleasing salty sweetness and comes from the brilliant Claire Macdonald who’s Seasonal Cooking and More Seasonal Cooking are classics of the UK cookery lexicon. 

The use of a few cloves and a pinch of cinnamon add a spicy aroma that complements the whole dish. Of course, you can vary the recipe to suit your tastes and don’t feel bound by just using pear, other popular fillings such as apple & blackberry, blueberries and rhubarb work really well.

For filling
6 ripe Williams pears
10ml brandy
100g unsalted butter
1tsp lemon juice
50g Demerara sugar
8 cloves 

For crumble

1 packet digestive biscuits
100g Demerara sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
100g salted butter


  1. peel, core and cube the pears and throw into a bowl with the lemon juice (this will prevent the lemons oxidising).
  2. place the biscuits in a carrier bag and beat the bejesus out of them on a hard surface with a rolling pin until they become crumbs.
  3. melt the butter in a heavy saucepan on a low-medium heat, when it starts to bubble add the biscuit crumb, sugar and cinnamon and stir continuously for a couple of minutes. 
  4. Once the crumble is warmed through empty it into a mixing bowl.
  5. To assemble take a large oval gratin dish and chuck the pears piece in; douse with the brandy, dot with the unsalted butter and scatter with the cloves and sugar.
  6. Top with the crumble mixture, and set aside covered with a tea towel in a cool, dry place until ready to serve. 
  7. To serve place on the middle rack of a hot oven (around 200 degrees) for 10-15 minutes until the top starts to brown and the edges start to bubble. 
  8. Serve with single cream or good quality vanilla ice cream. 

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