Monday 20 July 2015

Lemon cream crumble

It's not a lemon crumble in the traditional sense of apple or blackberry. Sorry. This is a bit cheffy-poncy. These days anything with a crunchy topping can be called a 'crumble' and I have fallen foul of this fashion. This is a non traditional topping anyway, using not just rubbed flour and butter, but oats, bran and nuts for lighter and crunchier doings.

Mentioning blackberry crumbles makes me remember picking the things with my mother off overhanging walls in Abertridwr and Senghenydd (yeah, pronounce those English people). We'd take the berries in our bramble blooded hands and soak them overnight to remove dust and detritus. In the morning, each bowl would have a little flotilla of drowned maggots floating in the water. The fruit would then be combined with not nearly enough sugar to produce a fruit compote of startling tartness that would end its days heaving under a heavy floury crumble. Happy days.

This cream crumble only happened because I wanted something to serve with my poached peaches and orange sorbet. Though both delicious and very summery, both are a little tart and soft and need a mollifying cream AND a contrasting crunch. It seemed sensible to combine both requirements into one dish. This could be eaten on its own of course. Call it a syllabub crunch or something, which technically it is. You could also pipe it into profiteroles and serve with a fruity sauce.

The cream can be lemon, vanilla, any kind of fruit. Make a puree and combine with stiffly whipped cream. In this case, I used lemon curd. The topping is actually very granola-like, using oats, nuts and bran. Almost sounds healthy doesn't it - if we close our eyes to the butter and sugar. Our eyes maybe, never our hearts.

Oaty, nutty crumble topping (doubles up as granola)

It's a versatile thing this. I imagine (not tried yet) you could pour this into a shallow tray of melted chocolate and make your own granola bars. I used almonds here as the topping was to marry with peaches and orange but obviously change the nut to work with your dish.

I've also an idea (doubtless not new) about omitting the sugar and making a savoury crumble to go on something cheesy or to add interest to a soft dish of aubergine - god knows they need it. I also used malted flour but feel free to use plain or wholemeal.

In a bowl, combine: 50g of rolled oats, 25g of bran (breakfast stuff is dandy) 40g of malted flour, 50g of crunched up almonds (or any nut), big pinch of salt and 50g of caster sugar. Mix well. You could add spices or zest at this stage. Perhaps ginger, cinnamon or cloves for a fruit topping. Pour over 60g of melted, unsalted butter and mix in.

Spread the mix in a shallow tray or baking sheet lined with baking paper or silicone and bake at 180°C for ten to fifteen minutes. The longer: the darker: the more flavour, but be careful not to burn it. If you are putting it on fruit to make a proper crumble you don't need to pre-cook it at all.

Lemon Curd.

The instructions for curd almost always tell you to mix the ingredients in a bowl over simmering water. Standing there, stirring for half an hour. Sod that! This is often tricky and always a tedious faff. I do it straight over heat in a thick pan. It works fine, with the caveat that I use a thermometer to monitor. Your eggs will take the heat without a problem up to about 70°C and you can heat them quickly up to this point. Once this critical, protein denaturing stage is reached though you must whisk continuously and quickly. This should take no longer than 15 minutes.  Have a bowl of very cold water ready to cool the mix when it thickens, else you could end up with sugary scrambled eggs. Your washing up bowl or sink is fine. Just don't leave the curd pan there and forget about it, ready to be ruined by the careless toss in of a used teacup - as someone may have once done in our household.

Zest and then juice four unwaxed lemons. You can used the cheaper waxed but there will be less zesty zing and that's what we're after. If your zest is not very fine, chop with a knife until it is. I use a micro-plane grater so don't need to. In a heavy pan, combine zest with juice and 200g caster sugar, 100g butter, three eggs and a additional yolk. Whisk together thoroughly over a low heat. Then raise the heat and whisk until thick. There will be a noticeable labouring when it's thick enough. Immediately take the pan off the heat and place in cold water, whisking still. If you get some lumps pass the whole lot through a sieve. Chill. It will set to a satisfying, gelatinous judder. Store in jam jars etc. Unopened, it will keep for weeks in the fridge. And if you open it, it won't keep at all.

Now all you need are some fantastic, fragrant, gently poached peaches. Recipe coming soon.

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