In the US, the white picket fence is part of the American Dream. In Ireland, it’s not a picket fence, it’s a hedge. Almost every house has a hedge, stone wall or, yes, a fence bordering its property. When we moved to our house in the countryside six years ago, we inherited the dreaded leylandii hedge that quickly grows out of control if you don’t faithfully trim it every year. So hated is leylandii that some county planners have now banned it, garden centres won’t stock it and the hedges are the cause of over 20,000 neighbour disputes in Ireland and the UK because of their tendency to encroach on property and block sunlight. The only redeeming feature of my much-maligned hedge is that it harbours some blackberry bushes growing wild amongst it.
Much like elderflower takes over the countryside at the start of the summer, late summer and early autumn is all about the wild blackberries, peeking out from the hedgerows and free for the taking. I’m convinced that a good old-fashioned crumble is one of Ireland’s best-loved desserts (at any rate, it’s on a lot of restaurant menus), and none more so than an apple and blackberry crumble. At least there’s a silver lining to my otherwise ugly hedge, with a few crumbles worth of blackberries hiding in there.
Apple and Blackberry Crumble
Serves 6 to 8
Most crumble recipes call for cold butter to be rubbed into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, and you could certainly do that here, but I think melting the butter results in bigger, more satisfying crumbs in the topping.
for the crumble topping:
200 g (1 3/4 cup) flour
50 g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
50 g (1/4 cup) light brown sugar
25 g (1/4 cup) porridge oats (optional)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
100 g (1/2 cup) butter, melted
for the filling:
6 to 8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 600 g/1 1/4 lb when prepped)
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
zest of 1 lemon
250 g (1 1/2 cups) blackberries (frozen are fine)
cream, custard or vanilla ice cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
To make the topping, combine the flour, caster sugar and brown sugar, oats and salt in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter, then squeeze the topping with your hands to make small clumps. Put the topping in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
Place the chopped apples, sugar, corn flour and lemon zest in a large bowl and stir together well. Add in the blackberries and stir gently.
Place the filling in a large ovenproof dish or individual dishes. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling up. Allow to cool for 15 or 20 minutes before serving with cream, custard or ice cream. A crumble is best eaten straightaway, but any leftovers make an excellent breakfast the next day.