Category Archives: baking

Winter flavours…

I bloody HATE how early Christmas is every year. There were advent calendars for pets in the local supermarket back in August. I mean, if there’s one thing that’s not essential for Christmas it’s an advent calendar for your pet (sorry Doris)

And then I got irrationally angry about this product and signage in the supermarket yesterday.

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IT’S A CHRISTMAS TREE.

We can all see it’s a bloody Christmas tree, Sainsbury’s, calling it a ‘tiered tree objet’ does not make it less of a seasonal product. And let’s not even go to the bit where you’ve missed the ‘c’ out of object. It does not make it more desirable. I’m hoping it’s just a typo and not some misplaced sense of thinking Frenchifying a word makes a product hipper.

Having said all of that I love Christmas spices. LOVE them. All of them. And so, this very morning, I decided to make a batch of orange and cardamom cookies. And sure, they’re festive, but I deliberately made them heartshaped so they’re not seasonally relevant. Well, Valentine’s day I guess but I’m not American or 14 so I just don’t care. Let’s say I made them as it  was our six year anniversary  a couple of weekends ago and I’m filled with the romance of our love for each other*.

*If you know me, you’ll know I vommed a little in my mouth as I wrote that. 

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Orange and Cardamom biscuits 

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 40g dark muscovado sugar
  • 15 cardmom pods, seeds removed and ground
  • Zest of two oranges
  • 170g butter softened
  • 240g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

Mix the orange zest and ground cardamom seeds into the sugar so that the sugar is flavoured with the spices. Beat in the softened butter and then sift in the flour and salt. Mix till just combined, then split dough into two, flatten into discs and refrigerate for up to one hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170C.

Take one disc of dough and roll out to about 0.5cm thickness. Using whatever cutters you haev to hand, cut out biscuits and put onto a baking tray (lined with greaseproof paper, of course).

Keep rerolling until all dough is used up. The first disc made about 10 heart shaped biscuits so this recipe will probably make 20 or so.

Bake at 170C for about 15 mins until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and leave to cool before eating.

The dough can be frozen as can the actual cookies, so you can always have a festively spiced biscuit treat to hand.

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Autumn orchard days

Sadly, I’m not in a position to have my own orchard. I’d love one, but you know, London. And bees. I really don’t like bees. I know, I know, bees are the nice ones, wasps are the evil bastards. But they all have the capacity to sting and that’s really not fun. However, I do REALLY like apples so when my mate Amber posted a picture of her first apple harvest this year I decided that it was a perfect time to go visit her and help myself to some. I mean, catch up with a dear old chum.

And honestly, if you were presented with a photo that looks like this on Instagram, you’d do the same right?

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So after a lovely evening with the O’Connors which consisted of too many bubbles and not enough food  (my own fault entirely), we raided the apple crates and brought a bunch home with us and since then I’ve been on the hunt for recipes for things to do with apples that aren’t upside down cakes.  As per my previous post, I’ve made a lot of upside down cakes recently. In fact, since then I’ve made a couple of pineapple and rum upside down cakes which were officially the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.

As winter is around the corner, I’ve been craving anything bready and baked. And realised what I actually wanted was monkeybread because it’s breaded, baked, buttery and… sweet. What’s a word for sweet that begins with b? So I decided to combine apples with a classic monkeybread recipe and make apple monkeybread muffins. I figure, as they’re individual sized, there’s fewer calories in eating four at a time than there is from eating an entire bundt tin of monkeybread on its own.

Right? Right.

Recipe below. I used a pizza dough recipe as I didn’t want it to be too sweet as the apples were. If I were to make these again, I’d probably wrap the apple mix in the dough and then drench them in sugar and butter as (and this could just be me) the way the dough chunks look reminds me of chopped up chicken breasts and then it makes for a weird visual vs taste sensation. And I also think that you’d get a better apple to dough ratio that way. But give it a go, if you’ve got a glut of apples from you(r friends) orchard.

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Apple and cranberry spiced monkeybread

Pizza Dough

  • 2 x cups of bread flour
  • 2 x tsps dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps oil (I used sunflower as it was all I had, sure you can use anything else)
  • 1.25 cups of cold water

Put all the ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook and on a low speed combine then continue for a good 10 mins till the dough is stretchy and smooth

On a large board, flatten and stretch the dough till it’s vaguely rectangular and about a centimetre thick. Slice along the length into four equal pieces then randomly chop each slide into smaller nuggets – about 12-15 per length. Dust with flour, cover and leave to one side for a short prove whilst you make the rest of the filling.

Monkeybread

  • 100g butter melted
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsps ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 x cooking apples – you want them to be a little bit tart as there’s a LOT of sugar being added
  • A small bag (about 250g) of dried fruit – I used cranberries, but feel free to use your own favourite
  • Zest 1.5 lemons
  • 2/3 cup of dark brown sugar

Add the spices and salt to the melted butter and leave to one side to cool completely.

Peel, core and grate the apples. Put grated apples in a bowl with the dried fruit and lemon zest, then using your hands, toss with the brown sugar to get it all coated.

Then pour the butter mix over the fruit. Dust the dough nuggets again and add to the bowl and using your hands, toss with the fruit mix until they’re all covered.

Take small handfuls of the dough mix and put into pre-prepared muffin cases.  Once filled, pour any remaining butter from the bowl equally over each muffin. Then cover again and leave to rise for an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Bake for 25mins till the top is golden brown and the sugar is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before stuffing your face.

You can add a glaze to this, but they were sweet enough for our taste. I still have a glut of apples remaining, so any other apple recipes, ping em my way.

 

 

 

When life is topsy turvy, make upside down cake

We’ve just said goodbye to some friends who popped over for a visit from LA. We were more of a pitstop on their way to the more glamorous climates of Sri Lanka but still, was lovely to have them here. Their trip coincided with a lot of familial upheaval so whilst we endeavoured to feed them proper home cooked foods most days (I say most days, at least two days they were here I was too hungover to leave my bed – I’m a classy girl), we often failed and left them to their own devices. I did, however, get around to trialling the bundt pan chicken I’ve seen on various blogs recently. It’s basically like beer can chicken but on a bundt tin instead of a beer can – the idea is that it stays moist all over and the skin gets crispy as the air circulates around it. It was good but think I overstuffed the base of the tin with potatoes and onions as the skin on the legs didn’t get that crispy. So when I’ve perfected the potato to chicken to tin ratio, I’ll post my very own variation. I cleverly froze the carcass like some kind of weirdo who freezes bones and yesterday, I used it to make bone broth. Well stock but bone broth sounds fancier.

Anyway, they’ve left and we’re left with lots of fruit (mostly because that was what I lazily fed them on) so yesterday, I decided to use that fruit up during a lazy Sunday of baking and brothing.

Also related, I bought a basil plant from the supermarket a few months ago. I am not green fingered. I have a beautiful herb garden in our garden that flourishes in the summer months but then dies in winter and is never the same. I just don’t have that gardening bug. Anyway, I bought this plant, fully expecting it to be dead in a few weeks – but a few months later, it looks like this. This is very exciting news to me, I haven’t killed a plant. I need a medal. Anyway, a girl can only have so much pesto so decided to use the basil in this cake.

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Look at the size of that bad boy.

So below is my recipe for an upside down cake. I did two variants – one plum, one cherry but the cake and topping recipes remain the same. You can use most any fruit with this – apples and harder fruit may not cook down to the lovely softness of stoned fruit though.

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Upside down cake

Preheat your oven to 160C

For the topping

  • 50g softened butter
  • 50g soft brown sugar

Mix this together until it’s light and creamy then spread on the base of your tin. If you’re making the plum and basil variation, lay a line of basil leaves down the centre of a loaf tin then slice 3-4 plums and layer this over the basil, pushing down slightly so it’s stuck to the topping. Put in the fridge whilst you make the cake batter.

For the cake

  • 120g butter
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 2 x medium eggs
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy then add the eggs one by one until just incorporated. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and combine. Spoon the batter on top of the topping and flatten the top then put in the oven for 25-30 mins until a skewer inserted into the top comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then loosen the sides of the cake, place a serving plate over the top of the tin and invert – the cake should come loose and be ready to serve.

We ate ours warm with Haagen Dazs Belgian chocolate ice cream which I can confirm is a total win. But sure it’d be fine with cream/vanilla ice cream/marscapone/on it’s own/cold out of a bowl for breakfast. You choose.

 

Salted Caramel Tart with a Lankan twist

I’ve just returned from a very last minute week in Sri Lanka – aka the motherland. My dad’s family were the patrons of a temple in their home village (Kondavil in Jaffna) and the temple has recently been refurbished (in all of the colours) so my dad wanted to go for a pilgrimage. Now, I haven’t been to his (or mum’s) home towns since the mid-80s (you know, war) so I volunteered to go along with him. I know, I’m a saint, it was such a chore heading over to 31c, sunshine, beaches etc etc…

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It was a hugely emotional trip for many reasons – not least because of my current generally emotional state (see previous post). But rather than go into that, instead, I’m going to sing the praises of my new favourite ingredient that I brought home – palmyra jaggery.

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So as you probably know, jaggery is unrefined sugar made from plants with a considerable amount of sucrose – usually sugar cane. But palmyra jaggery is made from the sap of the palmyra tree which grows in abundance in Jaffna. Mum had asked me to bring some home and being a sucker for packaging, when I saw it, I decided to get some for myself too (see pic below – it’s in a case made from palmyra fronds). And what with it being mother’s day yesterday (in the UK, don’t panic, rest of world) I thought it’d be nice to make her something with it because she inspired me to buy it. In terms of flavour, the palmyra jaggery has a really rich deep taste, almost coffee like. Or cinder toffee.

And then I thought, god, this would make an amazing salted caramel which naturally took me to thinking about the lovely popcorn cheesecake recipe by Rosie Birkett. But given I’ve made that about 680 times in the last twelve months (because it’s AMAZING, go on, try it), I thought I’d try something different.

I found a recipe on Great British Chefs which I modified a little because life’s too short to weight out grams of eggs (and I wanted to incorporate the jaggery, obviously). But the original recipe is here if you fancy making it (it also gives you a great option for what to do with seven left over egg whites. Mine have just gone in the freezer). Also this is possibly the tastiest sweet pastry recipe I’ve ever tried – but don’t do what I did and trim it before you bake as it’ll collapse on itself and you’ll have to try and fix it in the oven with a spoon. Hence the slightly wonky base.

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Salted Caramel Tart with Palmyra jaggery – serves 10-12 (or 8, if you’re hungry buggers) 

For the pastry base:
NB this makes enough for two tarts but can be frozen so you’ve got the best pastry on hand all the time – honestly, it’s delicious.  

  • 400g plain flour
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 4g salt
  • 240g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the filling:

  • 140g caster sugar
  • 500ml of double cream
  • 100g palmyra jaggery (or any jaggery or dark muscovado)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the pastry first – this probably needs to chill for a minimum 5 hours so you don’t end up with a fat bottomed pie.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and then add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then pour in the beaten egg and stir till the mix comes together. If it’s a little wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, till it comes together and away from the sides of the bowl. tip onto a clean surface and knead briefly then pat into a flatish disk, wrap in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.

For the caramel filling, melt the caster sugar over a low heat. You may need to swirl the pan to help things along but try not to stir it too much – it may seize. Once the sugar has melted, add the double cream and stir to bring together. Then add the salt, remove from the heat and set to one side to chill.

Meanwhile, grate the jaggery into a large bowl and beat in the egg yolks. Pour over the warm double cream mix whilst continually beating. Then add the pinch of salt. Using a fine meshed sieve, pour the mix through into a clean bowl and leave to cool. Once the mix is cool (30-40 mins), skim off any bubbles from the top of the surface, cover and put into the fridge.

You can do all of this up to three days in advance.

When you’re ready to prepare your tart, remove the pastry (well, half of it) and caramel mix from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 150c and prepare a pie tin (I did mine in a 20cm springform cake tin as I couldn’t find a pie tin – worked just as well…) Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm and then line the tin, taking care not to rip the pastry (if you do, simply patch it up with any excess). Make sure you’ve got enough to hang over the edges of the tin – this is where mine collapsed and created a wonky base.

Put it back in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up again, then line the base with greaseproof paper and baking beans, pop onto a baking sheet and put into the oven.

Once the sides are golden, remove the baking beans/paper and put back into the oven for the base to cook and colour (approx 5-10 mins). Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, reduce the heat to 100c.

Once the base is cooked, pour the salted caramel filling into the tart case and put the whole thing back into the oven. The tart is cooked when the filling barely wobbles when you shake the tin. It will take at least one hour depending on how accurate your oven is, but check it after 40 mins, and then every 15 mins after that.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Serve with a drizzle of cream or a random selection of macarons, praline and ice cream if you want to be all Great British Cheffy. Or just eat as is.

 

What to do with leftover chocolate (which isn’t often a problem….)

I’m aware that it’s only October and I’ve got my ‘life begins at’ birthday in a fortnight (which I’m totally fine with, perhaps because I’m pretty sure this can’t be happening and I’m really only 25) but I decided a couple of weeks ago to start clearing out the kitchen so I can make space for the amount of food we end up buying in the run up to Christmas. And, let’s be honest, I say food, I mean those big tubs of Quality Street and Celebrations. And despite Christmas being months away, those gigantic tubs of chocolatey goodness have started appearing in supermarkets and whilst I hate the early arrival of Christmas by retailers, I freaking love me some chocolate.

During my cupboard clearout I discovered a not insignificant amount of Easter chocolate that I’d hidden after Easter to try and stop myself from exploding. I also found a box of Ferrero Rocher varieties and as I have mentioned before, my least favourite chocolate pairing is nuts and chocolate which probably explains why that’s leftover.

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Now, I love a Lindt bunny (or sheep or chick) as much as the next chocoholic but I also love a Lindt gnome or Father Christmas. So I figured I’d use up the leftover chocolate in what I like to now refer to as Chocolate Saturday. Catchy, eh? And so creative.

The three things I decided to make were: salted chocolate mousse, Ferrero Rocher cupcakes and an orange and chocolate chip loaf cake. The mousse was the easiest of the lot – 30g of chocolate and one egg per person (I made enough for four, so 120g chocolate, 4 eggs). Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and then remove from the heat. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and then beat in a third of the eggs whites – when this is all combined, fold in the rest of the whites. If you’re using dark chocolate and you’ve got a sweet tooth, whisk a tablespoon full of sugar per egg into the whites – I was using Lindt bunnies and they’re plenty sweet enough. Put into bowls and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or until set. Sprinkle a tiny amount of sea salt onto it before serving for that crunchy goodness.

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The Ferrero Rocher cupcakes simply involved shoving a Ferrero Rocher into each cupcake case and then covering with cake batter (actually, put a little bit of batter in the bottom first, to stop the chocolate from catching as it cooks). My last post had a cupcake recipe so I just used that. I iced using a buttercream (because of the slight disaster we had with icing the other ones) which I’m sure you all already have, and then I shoved another Ferrero Rocher on top. Apparently they’re lovely – I wouldn’t know, don’t like chocolate and nuts. I may have mentioned this before.

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My final recipe is the one I’m sharing here: Chocolate chip and Orange Loaf.

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I love orange and chocolate together, it’s possibly one of my favourite things (note to self: don’t forget the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges for Christmas) so this loaf ticks all the right boxes. I have to apologise to anyone more comfortable with metric (like me), it’s in US measurements, but that’s because I think the Yanks make loaf cakes much better than the Brits.

  • Zest of one large orange
  • Juice of one orange, topped up with boiling water to make 1 cup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used a smashed up Lindt bunny, you can use whatever you’ve got – I’d imagine dark chocolate will give it much more of a Jaffa Cake flavour)

Put the orange peel into a bowl and cover with the juice/boiling water – allow to stand for at least 10 minutes. Pre-heat oven to gas mark 4 and grease and line a 900ml loaf tin

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, bicarb, baking powder, salt) in a bowl and whisk together the egg, butter and orange juice mix in another.

Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined and then fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45-55 mins until a skewer inserted into it comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then allow to cool fully on a wire rack. I served mine with the salted chocolate mousse and some strawberries but I think it’d make a perfect breakfast loaf, with a nice cup of Earl Grey, so that’s what I’m going to go eat RIGHT NOW. Bye.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes (for the best 6 year old ever)

It was my beautiful nephew’s birthday last week – he turned six. He’s always been utterly awesome, very funny, a bit cheeky, loves trains, planes and automobiles. In fact, when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said an iPhone6 or a Lamborghini. I did not get him either of those things, heck if I could afford a new car, I’d be getting one for me not for him. However, I did amuse myself by buying him a wind up car from Tiger and scribbling out its name and writing in Lamborghini. I am a comedy genius.

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Anyway, as per Rixy’s birthday where I made all the red velvet cupcakes in the world, my sister asked if I could make some cupcakes for his birthday. When I asked Praveen what type of cupcakes he wanted, he said chocolate brownies and chocolate chips and chocolate chocolate. So I made carrot cakes. Not really. Obviously. My sister had ordered some Star Wars themed cake toppers so we put those on top.

I had the day off on Friday and my dear friend Clare came over to help me make cupcakes. To be fair, she came round on the promise of wine, but we also managed to make 24 cupcakes and decorate them, before we got too tipsy. And then we got really drunk and found ourselves talking to strangers with lovely dogs in the street and doing jigsaws and all sorts (admittedly, very suburban middle aged all sorts but still, fun was had)

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Here’s the recipe. We screwed up the icing a little by putting in the cream whilst the chocolate was still hot so if you’re using this recipe, let the chocolate cool a bit. Or cook the chocolate and the cream together, I think that may be the best option.

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Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes (this recipe makes 14, I reckon…) 

  • 200g butter
  • 200g light muscovado
  • 200g 70% chocolate
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 4 and line a muffin tin with cases.

Melt together the sugar, chocolate and butter, once smooth and glossy, set aside to cool. Beat together the eggs, salt and vanilla extract.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Once the chocolate mix has cooled, beat in the eggs and then pour the mix over the flour, stirring constantly. Once all the flour is incorporated, add the milk chocolate chips and beat in.

Spoon into the muffin cases until 3/4 full and then place into the oven for 20-25 minutes. Test with a skewer, and by bounce – don’t forget, the chocolate chips will be melty so don’t overcook your cakes if your skewer doesn’t come out clean.

Leave aside to cool whilst you make your icing.

Melt 200g plain chocolate (70%) with 100ml double cream using a bain marie. Once all melted, take off the heat and add 50g sifted icing sugar. Beat till it’s all incorporated, then spread over the top of each cupcake.

Put on your toppers and serve. Delicious.

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Clare was very proud of her ROYGBIV cupcake case placement, so I had to share at least one photo of them empty.







Fig and Peach Crumble

Terribly sorry, I took no photos of this dessert after it had been made because I had had wine. But there’s a great photo of a cheese wedding cake to make up for it. 

A couple of things I’ve mentioned before: I love Autumn for its abundant produce and I have a terrible tendency of not eating fresh fruit and then shoving it in the freezer so I can smoothie-ise it or throwing it out. And with the latter, my middle class guilt makes me feel terrible for doing that so I’m trying really hard to not over buy fresh fruit so I can actually enjoy it at its finest.

Sometimes however, I let fruit go a little close to the point of no return but now it’s Autumn, I can turn that fruit into fruity crumbles and who doesn’t like a crumble? With lots and lots of custard poured on top. YUM.

So, I bought some figs because my sister in law had an amazing cheese wedding cake at her wedding a couple of weeks ago and we brought home a chunk o’cheese from the cake but soon forgot about that dinner option. And then, last weekend, we had Marcel’s uncle stay from Wisconsin and ended up hosting two dinner parties in his honour so I decided to get all the fruit in the fridge and turn it into a crumble for pudding.

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All the fruit in the fridge was figs and peaches, FYI. And turns out, figs and peaches go quite well together, possibly a little bit sweet so I reduced the sugar from a normal crumble and it came out deliciously. And I kinda wish I had some right now to shove in my belly. But I don’t. So that’s sad. But here’s the recipe anyway.

Fig and Peach crumble

  • 8 small ripe figs, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 6 slightly underripe peaches, peeled, stoned and cut into chunks
  • 2 x tbsp demarara sugar
  • 1/2  tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp all spice
  • Juice and zest of one lime

Put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix well and cover. Leave aside for a couple of hours so that the fruit softens a little and takes on the spiced flavours. You can use whatever spices you like, this is what I had in the cupboard.

Before you make the crumble topping, preheat the oven to gas mark 4/160C

I know everyone has their own favourites for crumble topping but i like mine buttery and slightly spiced so this is it!

  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 1 x tsp ginger
  • 1 x tsp finely chopped preserved ginger
  • 115g butter, chopped into cubes (this should be fridge cold)
  • Pinch of salt

Sift flour, salt and ginger into a bowl, add the sugar and butter and rub together till you have fine breadcrumb like texture. Stir in the preserved ginger for added chewy flavour bursts.

Place the fruit and any juices into the base of a baking tin and sprinkle the crumble topping over it. I like to leave the sides a little bare so that the juices from the fruit bubble up over the sides but you can do your own thing.

Put it into the oven, bake for 40-50 minutes, till the crumble takes on a brown ish colour and then remove. So that you don’t burn your mouths, leave it to cool for 5 mins before serving and then serve with lashings of custard.

Enjoy!