At this beautiful autumnal time of year, nothing beats the smell of apples and cinnamon. Coming home to the countryside from London left me in no doubt that this was one of my favourite times of the year, as the train sped from city to open pasture I watched as the countryside seemed to change before my eyes into a red and golden paradise.
Pulling up at my childhood home the first thing to greet me was my bouncing ball of tawny fur, Bo. Swiftly followed by a large pile of rustic apples that lay upon the kitchen counter. We are lucky enough to have an orchard full of fruit trees, the most prolific being the apple. Although I am not sure of their variety these trees bear fruit every year and have done since before I was even born! Most of the apples fall naturally and become food for our two pet donkeys Dolly and Darcy but some we collect and pile high on the kitchen counter awaiting a spot of apple inspiration to turn them into something tasty.
Without a moment of hesitation, I knew that I would be making an apple crumble that evening. However mid-way through a health kick I wanted to ensure that it was as healthy as possible without becoming unrecognisable as a crumble so that I could indulge guilt free.
I apologise in advance for those who like gram by gram recipes, as this isn’t how I tend to cook. Favouring the use of instinct over measuring scales I take a more relaxed and inventive approach.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
- Prepare the apples – I used approximately 15 apples for this recipe which varied in size from a tennis ball to little more than a squash ball. If you want more apple mixture, use more apples.
Unlike shop-bought apples these had a tough skin covered in beautiful imperfections which, although not off-putting when eating them raw, would not break down in the stewing process. For this reason, I fully peeled the apples before removing the core.
Next, chop the apples into rough pieces about 2cm square and put them in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat with a little water in the bottom to stop them burning on. Leave the apples to stew for around 20 minutes stirring occasionaly and making sure that they don’t get too dry and stick to the bottom of the pan. Fortunatly for me the apples were naturally very sweet, and so no extra sugar had to be added however if yours are too tart add some maple syrup, honey or your preferred sweetener. In order to keep the added sugar down try to choose a few red varieties of apple as well as the green as these often contain more natural sugar.
- Prepare the crumble – Whilst the apples are filling the house with a beautiful sweet smell begin the crumble topping. Both myself and my mum are gluten and dairy free and so, by default this crumble was to be also, though of course substitute ingredients for your own.
Combine equal quantities of gluten free oats and gluten free plain flour in a large bowl, I would guess at a mug full of each. Then add cinnamon, nutmeg or your preferred spices to taste. I like to add a teaspoon of salt which goes well with the sugary apple.
Next add a generous glug of pure maple syrup, around 3 tablespoons worth, then mix the oat mix together until it starts to form clumps. In a traditional crumble recipe a large quantity of butter is used but in order to keep this healthier I used 1 tablespoon of melted dairy free spread and added just enough to form separated clumps in the crumble mix.
The consistency here should still be dry enough not to leave a messy residue on your hands and to fall in large breadcrumbs. I have seen recipes substituting the dairy free spread for coconut oil, and if you wanted to omit fat altogether, water would also work, although be mindful that the fat provides a buttery taste as well as a golden colouring.
- Once the apples have gone completely soft, but have not completely lost their form, add them to the bottom of an oven proof dish.
- Generously sprinkle the crumble on top, embrace the lumps as these make the tastiest bits. I like to have a lot of crumble to get a gooey layer between the crispy top and the squishy apples.
- Finally place in the preheated oven until the top is golden and the apples bubble at the sides.
And there you have it!
Cooking is supposed to be relaxing, so chill and adapt with the ingredients rather than fight against them. Most importantly stuff yourself with your 5 a day crumble allowance.