Even at this time of the year, I have quinces sitting about. Having eaten and/or discarded any with imperfections, I find that months later, despite having been left, forgotten, in a bowl in the corner of my rather warm kitchen, some quinces remain, unwrinkled and beautifully perfumed.
Quinces alone make for a rather daunting compote: their rough-celled texture – like pear except more so – can grate hard against your teeth. But mixed with some strong-flavoured cooking apple – here we use renette, pippins – it is delicious. Top this off with a chewy crumble mix and you have a fantastic dessert.
Of course, quinces aren’t an essential ingredient here – just one that rings the changes. This crumble topping goes perfectly with any stewed fruit you want, including plain apples. I prefer my fruit desserts to taste of fruit rather than sugar, so have added none to the stewed fruit. If your tooth is sweeter than mine, you’ll have to adjust this to suit your own tastes.
Cooking apples – 2 large
Quinces – 2 medium
Spelt flour – 100 g
Oat flakes – 100 g
Ground almonds – 50 g
Butter – 120 g
Sugar – 80 g
Fruit juice – as necessary
Peel the apples and quinces. Core both and chop them, the apple coarsely and the quince quite finely as it tends to break down less than the apple. Put them in a saucepan with a shake of ginger, another of cinnamon, four or five cloves and enough fruit juice (freshly squeeze orange juice is extra good) to cover the bottom of the saucepan to a depth of about half a centimetre. Cook the apples slowly, covered, over a low heat, until the fruit is soft. You may need to add more fruit juice if the fruit seems to be drying out.
Set the oven to 180°C.
Spread the oats on a shallow tray and bake them for five or ten minutes, until they’re dry and hard. You now want to mill them in such a way that you have something which is more pulverized oats than oat flour. I use a grain mill on a coarse setting. But a quick whizz in a blender should do the trick too.
Mix the oats, flour and ground almonds in a bowl, and rub in almost all of the butter. Obviously, this can be done in your mixer if you don’t feel like rubbing in by hand. Now add all but a small tablespoon of the sugar, and mix that in.
Spread the fruit in a ceramic pie dish, about 15-20 cm: smaller if you want a thicker crumble, larger if you prefer it more thinly spread. The fruit should be nice and moist but if there’s a lot of juice sloshing around on top, spoon some off: too much will turn your crumble mushy. Now spread the crumble over the fruit, dot the top with small lumps of the remaining butter and sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly across the crumble. If your crumble is spread thinly, you may get away with just 15 minutes in the over; if it’s thick, then leave it for 20-25 minutes or until it looks slightly brown on top.
Serve the crumble hot with whatever takes your fancy: cream, custard or vanilla ice cream. I so love the taste of the fruit and the texture of the oaty crumble that I usually have it just as it is.
© Anne Hanley, 2012