Sunday, September 6, 2009

Plum crumble

When I was a child growing up in Stirling, there was a pear tree, an apple tree and a plum tree in our fairly small back garden. The apples were a now rare variety known as Stirling Castle which were quite tart - halfway towards being a cooking apple - The pears were inedibly woody but the plums were Victoria and were delicious. Unfortunately, one year the crop was so large that the poor little tree literally snapped in half under the weight of the fruit. I saw some Victoria plums in the greengrocer's the other day and they looked, felt and smelt exactly like the ones I remember from my childhood, so I decided to make some plum crumble with them.

the filling
750g plums
3 tablespoons of demerara sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

the crumble
250g plain flour
150g butter or margarine
100g demerara sugar
50g rolled oats
50g almonds (either ground or slivers)

  1. Stone and halve the plums. If they are a little hard, then stew them in a saucepan for a few minutes with the sugar and cinnamon. If they are already very ripe then this is not necessary. Put the plums in a medium-sized ovenproof dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the butter or margarine with the flour, sugar, oats and almonds, and rub gently between your hands until it has the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Cover the plums with the crumble mixture and bake for 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 190oC.
Proportions and preferences
Sometimes in life it's best to be left wanting more, and I think this definitely applies here. You should be left with the feeling that if only there had been a little more of the crumbly topping then it would have been perfect: if you don't have that feeling, then there was probably too much topping and not enough fruit.

Apart from the crumble:fruit ratio, the other big issue when making crumble is how cooked the fruit should be. For soft fruits (ripe plums, blackberries and that kind of thing) I don't think the fruit benefits from pre-cooking as it will already be soft and juicy from the oven. However, if you're making apple or rhubarb crumble then the fruit is definitely improved by being stewed for a few minutes before having the topping added and being baked.

Every autumn kids in Stirling used to come and 'scrump' our apples. They would knock on the front door and ask if they could come through and have some apples, but it was understood that if you refused then they'd come over the wall and help themselves anyway. The 'scrumpers' came from the top of the town - the working class area at the top of the hill, which corresponds to the old town before it expanded in the late 19th century, while we 'scrumpees' lived in the King's Park, which was the posh area built when the town expanded in the Victorian period. Thinking about it now, it seems that this scrumping was the embodiment of a tense social relationship which combined a mixture of patronage, obligation, resentment and intimidation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After eyeing this recipe for a while, we finally got round to trying it. The crumble topping was sweet, crunchy and seriously moreish. We've found the perfect recipe. Thanks.