27 October 2010

one night in bangkok makes a hard man crumble

Crumble has got to be some of the the best kind of food in existence, among the comforting-est of all the comfort food. In Nigella Express, there is this very cool idea where you make up some crumble topping in advance and freeze it so if you ever want pudding, but the thought of actually having to cook makes you weepy, you're still good to go. I mean, there's a bit of initial effort that goes into it. But that's the good thing about Nigella - there's options. Whether you're in the mood for a seven layer trifle where you make your own sponge and custard by hand, or something more or less instant but not so instant that you're sitting on the couch ejecting a can of whipped cream into your mouth, she's got you covered.

That said, I can't help being suspicious of crumble recipes, and will often think "that's not nearly enough butter!" as I read the list of ingredients. I definitely trust Nigella Lawson, the woman who taught me that 250g butter in one cake is just fine, but even so when I saw that her recipe was for four servings, it took effort to stick to the 50g she stipulated. Worrying, maybe, but true. No one wants wafer-thin crumble coverage.

Turns out 50g was all good, and there was no need to get so hand-wringingly righteous over it. That said, when you divide 50 between 4 that's only like...less than 1 tablespoon of butter per person. That's practically nothing. But go with it, you somehow end up with just the amount of crumble you need. Nigella calls this "Jumbleberry Crumble", which is just an olde English term for "whatever berries you have". I had the end of a packet of frozen blackberries, plus some cranberries leftover from last Christmas. While I held back from exaggerating the topping quantities, I did add some dark chocolate chunks to the fruit. It felt right, but then adding chocolate to things usually does...right?

Jumbleberry Crumble

From Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express

For the Crumble Topping:
50g butter
100g flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder, till it resembles coarse crumbs (with some inevitable floury dustiness). Stir in the sugar, and then tip into a freezer bag till needed.

Set your oven to 220 C. Get some ovenproof ramekins, fill with frozen berries (and a few dark chocolate chunks if you like), sprinkle over 1 teaspoon cornflour, two teaspoons sugar, and a couple of tablespoons (roughly 50-75g) frozen crumble topping. Bake for 15-20mins depending on the size of the ramekin - 125g ones for the lesser time, but 250-300ml ones will take a little longer.

I made these fairly late at night with both low lighting and low camera battery, not giving me a lot of room to move as far as getting quality photos. Next time?

These were delicious - the chocolate melting into the sharp juices released by the frozen berries as they stewed in the oven, creating a thick, rich sauce for the fruit. The crumble topping was highly satisfying despite my earlier nervousness - biscuity, sweet and gratifyingly crisp in places. Plus, because there's only the two of us, I've got some crumble mix in a sandwich bag in the freezer, just waiting to be sprinkled over fruit on another cold evening. For all that I talked about Spring and skipping along in the mild sunshine with armfuls of asparagus bushels in my last post, the weather in Wellington is so variable (and it varies heavily towards the murkier, chillier end of the scale more often than not. This is a pain, but there is an upside when it means you're more likely to be in the mood to eat crumble.)

Title via: One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess. Confession: I actually thought that my title was the lyrics but it turns out it's actually "makes a hard man humble". Whatever. I love this song - the strange, theatre-plus-rapping that became a chart hit despite having perhaps seriously Top 40-unfriendly lyrics and concept. Adam Pascal's take is pretty fabulous, from the 2008 concert with Idina Menzel and The Wire's Clarke Peters, but is cruelly unavailable on Youtube. You'll just have to buy the DVD...Nevertheless Murray Head's original has its dubious charms also. I did a jazz dance to this many, many years ago, I can still remember bits of it to this day.
Music lately:

The Little Things by TrinityRoots. We saw them on Sunday night at the Opera House on their 'reunion' tour. They seemed so comfortable with each other - spinning a tune out for ten minutes and then with a collective nod seamlessly bringing it back down to earth. All three of them are wonderful to watch - Warren Maxwell looking calm and a bit spiritual, Riki Gooch's boyish face belying his monster talent on the drums and Rio Hemopo, who looks somehow familiar (I realise he's a musician and all) providing bass in both guitar and voice. They were supported by Isaac Aesili, who is hugely talented in his own right, and Ria Hall, who I'd met before when she emceed the Smokefree Pacifica Beats, and has an absolutely stunning voice. It was a beautiful night.

What's Going On, Marvin Gaye, from the album of the same name. Tim got some Marvin Gaye on vinyl and this song is just up there with the very best of all music, like crumble is among the best of all foods.
Next time: As I said last time, I have some options, so it all depends on what I feel like...by the way, I've tinkered round and added the option of a Facebook 'like' button just below, in case you're all "I don't like change!" I don't even really like Facebook so am a bit unsure about actively letting it invade my blog but wanted to give this 'like' thing a whirl. Considering how rubbish the photos are this week it possibly isn't the best place to start and will probably put any new readers off, but anyway, if you don't know, now you know...


  1. I guess Nigella really knows her stuff! :) I am a big fan of hers too!

  2. I do love the powdery-ish look of your crumble, but I don't know if I can ever move past my mum's crumble with melted butter, flour, sugar, and walnuts! Sometimes nostalgia beats Nigella ;)

    Bravo for adding chocolate, though! While I don't personally enjoy fruit and chocolate, I wholeheartedly commend the basic principle of adding chocolate to as many parts of life as possible :D

  3. You gotta love Nigella's handy hints for late night sugar rushes and do like the idea of being fully prepared. I love the idea of fruit and chocolate, nice one.

  4. Crustabakes: :D

    Hannah: Fair enough. Walnuts would have been a fantastic addition (I would normally add oats too).

    Anna: Yep - any possible situation where you need pudding, covered :) I like it.

  5. The last time I used a recipe for crumble was at Manual cooking class in Form 2. Ever since then, I have creatively mixed an arbitrary amount of butter, sugar (any colour) and at least one other ingredient - sometimes coconut/cereals/wholemeal flour/ mixed nuts and sometimes with ginger or cinnamon. My personal fave? Peaches with a slurp of green ginger wine undera crumble with a smidgeon of ginger in the mix. Made a berry crumble a few weeks ago but never thought of including chocolate.

  6. I really like oats and nuts in my crumble, but if you are going to put chocolate in it, I guess it doesn't really need embellishment!

  7. 250g of butter in ONE cake is a lot- I would be wary of a cake that uses any more. This kind of thinking is what helps fuel obesity and heart problems.

  8. Foodycat: Oats and nuts are so good in a crumble :)

    Sasha: Respectfully disagree. Any cake with 250g+ butter in it will make a large cake that will presumably be shared amongst more than one person over the course of a couple of days. If it's being made to be eaten entirely by one person in one go...then it's not really the specific cake itself that's the problem. Basically, I believe there are other significant factors that fuel obesity and heart problems, and a homemade cake is pretty low on that list.