Autumn Comforts

Published on Sunday 28th September 2014 by Julie Embleton

We’ve been enjoying an unseasonably mild start to Autumn here in Ireland this year and the hedgerows are now laden with blackberries. I picked my first batch this morning and came home with a juicy load of just under 1 kilo. Not bad for less than an hour’s ramble up the laneway! Once they’re washed I’ll freeze them in portion sizes and then use them over the winter to make some treats like blackberry crumble. Yum. When I picked blackberries last year it was so cold that I had to give up after just half an hour as my fingers had turned numb and couldn’t grip the berries. Not so this year – the birds haven’t even a need to tuck into them yet.

Talking about the weather is a national pastime here, and we’re usually grumbling about it,  but over the past week I’ve heard so many people comment on how beautiful this year’s Autumn has been so far. I had to agree this morning with the sun shining down on me as I pottered along the lane. There was a very satisfying crunch of fallen leaves underfoot and some curious robins followed me as I picked my way along. I even got to see one of the squirrels that live in the trees by my house. I heard him before I saw him; he was making a sound that can only be described as a mixture of a cawing crow and a meowing cat. It was very strange. Maybe he was a bit narked that I was plundering his winter larder…

All the crunchy leaves, turning trees, fallen horse chestnuts and singing robins got me feeling very Autumnal, so I’m now excited to start lighting the fire again, closing the curtains and cosying up for winter. Well – I will be for about a week and then I’ll be moaning about the long, cold nights and having to clean out the fire every day…

Here’s my easy-peasy recipe for Blackberry Crumble. I’m a Gluten-Free person so the recipe includes both traditional and GF ingredients. I’m also stuck in the dark ages so I still use ounces instead of grams.

Oven temp: 180c

8oz/230g Plain Flour (GF or non GF)
4oz/115g Sugar (I like to use half and half of brown and white sugar)
4oz/115g Butter (If using GF flour you may need a tiny bit more butter to combat the dryness of the GF flour)
Enough blackberries to layer the bottom of your dish. Feel free to chuck in some slices of cooking apple if you’re feeling adventurous.

Whizz the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until you get a texture like biscuit crumbs – or if you’re too lazy to face washing all the processor bits like I am, place the flour and sugar in a bowl and then add the butter using your fingers to get a nice crumbly biscuity texture. Again, if you’re lazy like me, here’s a very handy trick if you’re not organised enough to take your butter out of the fridge before you bake: Use a grater to grate the cold butter into your mix – it’s cheating, but it works!

If using apple you can add a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or cloves to the mix – it gives a really warm spicy flavour to the dish. And if you’re super posh you can also crush a few digestive biscuits in with the flour mix to make it extra crunchy.

Place the fruit on the bottom of your dish. Sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of sugar (a bit more if using apple or if you’ve a sweet tooth) and then tip the crumble mix on top. Shake the dish gently to get the crumble mixture settled then stick it in the oven at about 180 celcius for 20 / 30 minutes. You don’t want the crumble mixture to burn, but you do want to see some of the fruit juices bubbling up around the sides so keep your eye on it. (Apple takes a wee bit longer to cook than blackberries.)

Serve with ice-cream, cream or custard. Or just scarf straight from the dish, but mind you don’t burn your tongue…

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