So as fallen leaves turn to damp cornflakes underfoot and those last shards of summer disappear behind swollen grey clouds, I'm feeling that first frisson of Autumn. I've had enough of caring if the sun will come out, sitting at washed out picnics and pretending it's summer on chilly sea fronts spattered with rain. No this is Autumn with no expectations save new school shoes and a momentary flash of amber and gold in the trees before they fall. And my favourite bit about Autumn is that it gives us permission to lock our doors, batten down the hatches and just stay in. We don't even have to be skinny anymore (until next year's beach panic sets in anyway). So to embrace those dark-too-soon Autumn weekend afternoons of snuggling on the sofa watching old films and eating comfort food, I've devised an Autumn Comfort Crumble made with blackberries from the garden or the hedgrow.
So put the barbie and the garden chairs in the garage until next year, pop into the garden for one last time and pick as many blackberries as your bowl will hold. Lock the front door, turn on the oven and create your own little bit of Autumn Comfort.
1 oz butter
1kg Blackberries (just fill a big bowl if you're picking)
3 teaspoons cinnamon4 tablespoons muscovado (or soft brown) sugar (or to taste - blackberries can be sharp)
2 -3 teaspoons orange zest
Crumble Topping8oz (225g) plain flour
3oz (75g) butter at room temperature
3-4 oz (75 -110g) soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
MethodPut on your lounging pyjamas and an apron and pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 350f 180c.
Put the butter into a pan and add the muscovado or brown sugar, warm on a moderate heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Now tumble all those juicy blackberries into the pan add the cinnamon and cook gently for between 5-10 minutes. Relax a little and make your afternoon movie choice until the berries have absorbed some of the fluid and are sitting in a fabulous Autumny syrup. Now put the syrup and fruit into an oven proof dish and set aside.
Measure the butter and flour and place in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it's evenly distributed and has a breadcrumb texture. Keep adding a little flour if you're hot-handed like me and it goes a bit gloopy on your fingers! Add the sugar and cinnamon and combine into the flour and butter mix. With a large spoon, transfer the topping to the fruit, laying it evenly until it is all used up. Now add any extra topping you desire, orange zest, chopped nuts or almonds sprinkling liberally on the top of the crumble.Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the topping is tinged with golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Allow to cool a little, then fill a dessert bowl with hot, juicy crumble and pour on some piping hot custard or chilled clotted cream.
Now grab some DVDs, a wooly throw and a pot of tea and take to the sofa for a comforting Autumn afternoon.
These quantities serve 4 hungry people in need of deep Autumn comfort. Bring it on!