Notes for apple crumble

Why put chilli in stewed apples? Because this is a dish eaten with tea and the chilli adds a moreish taste which goes with tea the same way a curry does.

Note: when stewing apples, you need to stir often as they cook quickest on the bottom and otherwise you will end up with a combination of mush and half crunchy apple – of course, that may be exactly what you want!

For one standard pie dish:

For the filling:

  • 6 granny smiths peeled, cored and sliced
  • dash of water
  • sugar to taste – with sweeter apples maybe none
  • cloves
  • freshly ground cinammon
  • a few dried chillies crushed/crumbled

Bring to boil in saucepan, they don’t take long to soften, stir once or twice.

For the topping (I didn’t measure the ingredients):

  • whole oats
  • sugar
  • dessicated coconut
  • powdered ginger
  • cinammon
  • finely chopped pecans
  • butter in small pieces

Preheat oven to 180C

  • Butter pie dish and add apples, take out cloves.
  • Mix all ingredients for topping and rub in butter. It will be dry in parts and lumpy
  • Spread over apples

Bake until topping looks ready.

Serve piping hot with natural thick yoghurt. Yoghurt could be cream, creme fraiche or icecream.

Had half for dessert, the rest will be breakfast in the morning.

Added: I have also made this with no sugar on granny smiths, and with treacle instead of sugar on the crumble. If using treacle add after you have rubbed in the butter.

The Confident Cook by Lauraine Jacobs

I was missing my friend Jared tonight – he’s been gone over 24 hours now…but fortunately he left behind some books including The Confident Cook, which I assume is a book well-travelled, in Geneva now, but New Zealand in origin. In this it reflects the author, who has done an incredible amount of travel in her life in her dedicated search for all she could find out about food from a cooking point of view.

The result is a book that reminds me of Australian Belinda Jeffrey’s style and attitude. Practical, tending towards healthy, but with no compromise on great taste. Naturally that comment doesn’t apply to dessert, but even then, one can find this dish, which I haven’t made yet but I’m anxious to try. It has no sugar, but that isn’t going to stop it being a sophisticated dessert option which one could serve up any time.

She introduces it thus:

This is another recipe for poached pears. My friend and guide on a trip to Santorini, Rosie Barron, shared the idea of combining savoury and sweet flavours to complement pears, and was the inspiration for this dish. The perfect way to end a meal, it should be served with thick Greek yoghurt, drizzled with extra honey.


6 firm, ripe pears
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup mild liquid honey (blue borage or clover)
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs thyme
1 cinnamon stick
6 cups water
thick Greek-style yoghurt, to serve
½ cup shelled fresh walnuts, chopped, to serve

Peel the pears, leaving the stalks attached, and set aside. Combine the vinegar, honey, bay leaf, thyme, cinnamon stick and water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the pears and very gently poach until the flesh is almost translucent (about 20 minutes).

Place the pears in a serving bowl and reduce the liquid over a fast heat until it becomes quite syrupy. This should take about 30 minutes. Pour the syrup over the pears and allow to cool.

To serve, place a pear on each plate with a little of the syrup. Spoon some yoghurt beside each pear, drizzle extra honey over and garnish with chopped walnuts.  (From The Confident Cook, recipe available online here.)


Stephanie Alexander’s sponge topping

I don’t eat desserts out often as I think however adventurous the rest of a meal is, dessert is for comfort. Restaurants don’t seem to get that. The last dessert I recall eating out that really fitted the bill in that regard was an apple crumble, piping hot, with lashings of equally hot custard on the side in Manchester eight years ago.

No surprise then that Stephanie Alexander’s sponge topping is an essential part of my limited dessert repertoire. Indeed, the author herself clearly sees it as more than just a dessert, as it is in her basics section which kicks off The Cook’s Companion.

rhubarb with sponge topping


  • 60g butter
  • 4 tablespoons castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g SR flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup milk (about 65 ml)
  • 2 cups drained poached or pureed fruit


Preheat oven to 180C. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold flour and milk alternately into egg mixture to make a soft batter. Put fruit into a 1 litre buttered pie dish and cover with topping. Bake for 30 minutes until well risen, firm and golden brown.

To this I add: I’ve tried it with apple and with rhubarb. I’ve also used small individual ramekins instead of one large dish. Cream, creme fraiche and strained yoghurt are all good accompaniments. Sometimes I serve with a little syrup on top.

It’s okay to make the topping ahead, even put it in the fridge if necessary, and as the fruit’s also been precooked, it’s a good dessert for not having to hang about in the kitchen with guests around.

apple with sponge topping

And, it’s comfort food that will simply make everybody happy. I do wish restaurants understood how important that is.