Diary of the Plague Year: Day 18 2 April 2020: Apple Crumble for Christian

Dear Christian

So glad you enjoyed the crumble when you came to visit.  My cooking is strictly improvisational so the crumble we had was made with whatever was to hand – pears, apples, blackberries. However, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a standard no-nonsense recipe for your first go so that you have something to go by (see below for a classic crumble recipe).

If you are using really good apples that is all you need. I bought some beautiful organic apples from the market the other day just to stew. I usually add spices such as cloves, ginger, five-spice, cinnnamon (NOT all at once!). But these apples were so beautiful I just stewed them with a knob of butter (large) and not much water and they were wonderful. So use your intuition.

Afterwards you can ring the changes – I add ground almonds to the crumble sometimes, maybe oats or crushed walnuts and you can use all manner of fruit. I once had a delicious strawberry and banana crumble – it sounded very unlikely but it was delicious. I made a peach crumble last summer – absolutely divine.

I tend to make it up as I go along and never bother to weigh anything, though when making a crumble I always feel that the more butter the better! So when it says “the consistency of breadcrumbs” make sure they are buttery breadcrumbs.

Serve with PLENTY of cream or custard.

Have fun!


For the filling:

600g apples – peeled, cored and sliced to 1 cm thick
2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

For the crumble:

175 g plain flour
110 g golden caster sugar
110 g cold butter

For the topping:

1 tablespoon rolled oats
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

  1. Heat the oven to 190C/170 fan/gas 5.
  2. Toss 575g peeled, cored and sliced Bramley apples with 2 tbsp golden caster sugar and put in a 23cm round baking dish at least 5cm deep, or a 20cm square dish. Flatten down with your hand to prevent too much crumble falling through.
  3. Put 175g plain flour and 110g golden caster sugar in a bowl with a good pinch of salt.
  4. Slice in 110g cold butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like moist breadcrumbs. Shake the bowl and any big bits will come to the surface – rub them in. Alternatively, pulse in a processor until sandy (don’t over-process).
  5. Pour the crumb mix over the apples to form a pile in the centre, then use a fork to even out.
  6. Gently press the surface with the back of the fork so the crumble holds together and goes crisp, then lightly drag the fork over the top for a decorative finish.
  7. Sprinkle 1 tbsp rolled oats and 1 tbsp demerara sugar over evenly, if you wish.
  8. Set on a baking tray and put in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the apples feel very soft when you insert a small, sharp knife. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.