Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake

“O come at last, to whom the spring-tide’s hope

Looked for through blossoms, what hast thou for me?

Green grows the grass upon the dewy slope

Beaneath thy gold hung, grey leaved apple tree

Moveless, e’en as the autumn fain would be

That shades its sad eyes from the rising sun

And weeps at eve because the day is done”

September – William Morris

Autumn is the pefect season. Crisp mornings giving way to warm sunshine, pretty coloured, crispy leaves to kick around, and every hedgerow bursting with free food (the best kind) Now is the time to go foraging for fruits, nuts and berries, mushrooms too if you feel brave (I’m not) Do make sure you know what you are picking, blackberries are easy to recognize but there are a multitude of other berries that look very much alike, you don’t want to be poisoned now do you? If you’re not experienced take a guide book with you. If in doubt – DON’T EAT IT!! Some berries are fine cooked but not raw so don’t put your fingers in your mouth while picking, if you don’t believe me look up “purgative” in the dictionary and ponder it’s meaning.

First pick your blackberries (if you buy blackberries from the supermarket between August and October I will never respect you again (unless it’s been raining and they’re all squishy), it only takes a few minutes to pop out to the nearest alleyway/wasteground/disused railway/neighbours garden to pick a couple of handfuls, which is all you need). Now it’s time to make September’s cake of the month, based on that wonderfully comforting British classic pudding, apple crumble.

Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake

Based on a traditional Somerset apple cake

  • 4oz (120g) Butter
  • 6oz (180g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8oz (240g) white or brown plain flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cooking apples
  • a couple of handfuls of fresh blackberries
  • 4 tbsp milk

For the crumble topping:

  • 4oz (120g) plain flour
  • 2oz (60g) butter
  • 1oz (30g) granulated sugar

Pre heat the oven to 170ºc (325ºf). Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin, a springform one is the best, it’s tricky to get out of a loose bottomed tin because of the crumble topping!

Make the crumble first. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and rub together until they resemble breadcrumbs. Put to one side.

Chop the apple into small cubes:

apple chunksIn a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour, spices and baking powder and mix well.

Fold in the apples, blackberries and milk. Don’t worry it the mixture seems a bit stiff, the fruit releases moisture as it cooks, so don’t add any more liquid.

blackberry mix

Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Sprinkle the crumble mix over the top. Bake for around 40 mins or until a skewer poked in the middle  comes out clean. If it seems to be too brown before being cooked in the centre, cover with a sheet of baking paper (not foil).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins tham gently ease it out and cool on a wire tray.

Lovely served warm or cold, especially with clotted cream!

apple b cover

“Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” – Keats

Spicy Sweetcorn Soup

Alice in Wonderland has to be one of the best loved children’s books ever written. Everybody loves Alice, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the March Hare. Maybe you have a soft spot for the Dormouse or Bill the lizard? Maybe you’re such a big fan that you’re now into weird cosplay (it happens). Personally, I always loved the part with the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle; though, as a small child the Mock Turtle was a confusing creature. Why did he have a calf’s head? Why the obsession with soup? Well…

…the book was published in 1865, a time when class and status were everything. Turtle soup was the trendy starter of choice at snobby dinner parties. According to Mrs Beeton, the green fat was of particular relish to epicures (eww!). The upper middle class types wanted to imitate the toffs, the middle class types wanted to imitate the upper middle class types, and so on. At the prohibitive cost of 2s per pound not everybody could afford fresh, or even tinned, turtle. What to do then? Veal meatballs were already part of the recipe, so it was a case of keeping the flavourings exactly as they were, but upping the veal content using a calf’s head. You can see what Lewis Carrol did there, right?

The thought of skinning and boiling up a calf’s head is only marginally less icky and gross than the thought of eating turtle with it’s lovely squishy green fat (eww again!). Instead my dears, try this warming spicy sweetcorn soup, perfect for a blustery September day and guaranteed no brains or endangered sealife.

Spiced Sweetcorn soup

Based on a recipe from Delicious Magazine. Serves 4.

  • 4 large corn cobs
  • 6 slices of streaky bacon
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • ½ to 1tsp of chilli flakes or similar (I used Korean red pepper powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre of chicken stock (from a stock cube is fine)
  • ½ oz (15g) butter

Cube the potatoes, slice the onion and crush the garlic. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off three of the corn cobs.

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and soften the onion until lightly golden round the edges. Add the crushed garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute more.

Add the potatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins or until the potato is soft.

Pro tip: for more flavour add two of the stripped corn cobs to the boiling soup.

Meanwhile, grill the bacon until it is nice and crispy. Chop into smallish pieces and put to one side. Cut the kernels off the remaining corn cob. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and fry the remaining corn kernels until golden and caramelised.

Blend the soup till smooth (removing the bay leaves and the stripped cobs first). Divide between bowls and sprinkle with the chopped bacon and caramelised corn. Serve with a good fresh crusty bread. I used Tesco’s corn bread, it seemed fitting.

Lewis Carroll was a total grammar nazi, going so far as to insist that can’t should be written as ca’n’t, won’t as wo’n’t etc, as these are (in theory) more “correct”.

Elderberry Icecream

September is a good time to pick a variety of wild foods, blackberries being the most obvious. If you enjoy foraging, it’s worth getting a decent guide book on the subject; make sure it has actual photographs – no matter how pretty hand drawn illustrations may be, in my experience it’s hard to be 100% sure you’re looking at the right thing. Also bear in mind that a lot of wild berries are not edible until cooked. Elderberries for example, if eaten raw, will give you a nasty upset stomach.

So a couple of years ago we went elderberry picking…

“After making the hedgerow liquour and a couple of gallons of elderberry wine (excellent for colds and flu) there were still a fair amount of berries left over. What to do? First thought was a straight up elderberry ice cream, then I worried that the flavour might be either overpowering or lost, having never used them in desserts before. How about a ripple? It turned out be be a fantastic combination of tangy fruit and extra creamy ice cream.

Elderberry Ripple Ice cream

For the ripple:

  • 200ml of elderberry juice
  • juice of half a lemon or lime
  • sugar to taste

I’m afraid I’m not very good at keeping accurate notes when recipe developing and have no idea how many berries it took to get this much juice! Lets say half a standard carrier bag full. Heat them gently in  a saucepan, with the lemon juice, until the juice starts to flow. Simmer gently for 10 mins to get rid of the toxins. Strain the berries out using muslin or a jelly bag and return the juice to the pan. Add sugar to taste, some like it sweet, others may prefer tangy. Stir till the sugar is dissolved.

Allow to cool then pop in the fridge.

For the ice cream:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 300ml milk
  • 120g sugar
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1 tsp cornflour

Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Heat the milk to boiling point.

Pour the milk onto the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently, stirring the whole time with a wooden spoon or spatula (the whisk won’t make enough contact with the bottom of the pan, risking a burnt and lumpy custard) until the custard has thickened to the consistency of cream and remove from the heat.

Pour into a large jug and add the double cream. Cool in the fridge.

Make the ice cream following the instruction for your machine. While it is churning put the elderberry syrup in the freezer, it helps to stop the ice cream melting again when you ripple it.

If you don’t have an ice cream machine you can pour the custard into  a 1.5 litre tupperware container and put it in the freezer. Keep the ripple in the fridge instead of the freezer or it will freeze solid before the icecream is ready. Every couple of hours, stir with a fork to break up large ice crystals. When it is fairly thick but still stirable, add the ripple as below.

When the ice cream is ready and working quickly, spoon blobs of it into a tupperware type container, alternating with spoonfuls of elderberry syrup. Using a palette knife or simliar, ripple the two mixtures together. Don’t overdo it or it will lose the ripple effect!

Freeze for a few hours or overnight, then enjoy!

I was not paid to endorse the Sage ice cream maker, though if they would like to….”

Small scale studies have shown that elderberry extract can lessen the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms.

Wooly Hats and Ice cream

I don’t know how it is down your way, but where I live I’m always amazed at the average Britons inability to tell how warm it is. I mean, all you have to do is step outside for a minute, maybe check the BBC weather forecast and there you have it. So far, this September has been pleasantly warm, with the odd cold and wet day, yet so many people are wearing a winter coat. Others are evidently dressed for the beach.

While I am busy doing studenty things, for yes, Buttered Crumbs is now a mature student (more on that later) I will be posting my favourite autumn recipes from the last few years. Naturally this will include ice cream in autumnal flavours  perfect for those who can’t decide whether it’s hot or cold outside!

And my advice? Dress for warmish weather but take a jacket.