They are based on a Danish sweet treat, havregrynskugler, which essentially means ‘oat balls’. I first tried these at one of my favourite hyggelig cafes in Aarhus, a delightful little place attached to a deli and farm shop. For that reason, I assumed the oaty things they had out on the counter would be some kind of worthy, uber-healthy raw cake or similar, and finding myself in need of a snack with my cup of tea one day, I decided to try one. I was surprised by how utterly delicious it was, with the nutty, slightly sweet taste of oats that took me straight back to making flapjacks and oat biscuits as a child. I remember once trying to eat raw oats out of the jar, assuming that they were what made the flapjacks taste so good, so by that logic they should be delicious on their own. I was wrong. I am not a horse. My oats need to be doused in butter and sugar.Read More
There are some things that, in my mind, have zero place in tea. Just like some people have an entirely irrational aversion to raisins in muesli, or olives in salad, I absolutely refuse to entertain certain rogue ingredients in my morning (/afternoon/evening) brew. Liquorice is the main culprit here: I can detect its sickly-sweet aroma simply from the vapour of the tea before it even touches my lips. Not that I’d let it, because then there’s a disgusting syrupy aftertaste that ruins the entire point of a cup of tea, which is to be bracing and relaxing all at the same time. It’s not candy, or medicine.Read More
I have made many a crumble in my life. I would count myself as something of a crumble connoisseur. I cut my teeth on the classics – apple, rhubarb – before graduating into a wild, wonderful world of pineapple, coconut and black pepper, or pear, chocolate and raspberry, or fig, blood orange and hazelnut, even venturing occasionally into savoury variations (tomato, rosemary and cheddar; butternut squash, sage and blue cheese). There is very little that I will not try to crumble, and there is very little that isn’t improved by being smothered in a blanket of butter, sugar and flour, rubbed together into an irresistible nubbly sweetness.Read More
This post combines two things I don’t normally care about: tailoring blog recipes to specific seasonal food-related occasions, and Valentine’s Day. You won’t find me whipping up treats for National Tempura Day, National Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day or World Tripe Day (if you needed proof that these ‘food days’ are just the farcical inventions of bored and desperate PR companies and marketing boards, there it is: World Tripe Day), because there is apparently some silly culinary designation for every single day of the year now, so by that logic I would never ever be able to make a spontaneous decision regarding what I cook. I can also take or leave Valentine’s Day, and it certainly doesn’t inspire me with culinary ambition (if I see one more hackneyed recipe feature telling me that I must serve oysters and fillet steak on the special day, I might find a decidedly more violent use for my oyster knife).Read More
Making granola is always a happy event in my kitchen, because it means I have time to potter around for 45 minutes whisking together delightful combinations of honey and spices and stirring huge oven trays laden with toasting, cinnamon-scented oats. It leaves the house smelling like a Scandinavian bakery for hours, and, best of all, enables me to stockpile a couple of big jars of glorious homemade granola to last me the next few weeks. Now that the festive season has arrived and I have handed in my PhD (just thought I’d casually drop that in - !!!), I thought I’d use a bit of newfound free time to experiment with a Christmassy version of this breakfast staple. It has the familiar nutty crunch of baked oats enveloped in honey, but with added seasonal twists.Read More
In the way that some women are 'bag ladies', I am an apricot lady. I regularly impulse-buy and hoard these gorgeous summer fruits, becoming rather untrendily obsessive about them during the summer months. It's rare to find me without a punnet of apricots in my bag, a spontaneous purchase from some market or shop because they just looked too good. I think it's the same with early-season rhubarb, with its slender, hot-pink stalks - like a mad bull or a bee I'm attracted to those bright colours and find myself stockpiling these edible jewels on a regular basis. No fruit lures my gaze quite like the rosy apricot, though, with its beautiful marigold blushes, and no fruit proves so versatile in my kitchen during the warmer part of the year.Read More
The quintessential aroma of summer in my kitchen isn’t the smoky tang of barbecued meat wafting in from the garden, nor the heady sweetness of ripe strawberries sitting on the counter. It’s the deep, slightly musky perfume of apricots. Whether they’re simmering gently in a chamomile and vanilla syrup on the hob, baking into an almond custard tart in the oven or being churned into a pale coral ice cream on the counter, their unmistakable sweet, soothing fragrance tells me that sunshine and long days are (hopefully) ahead. During the season, I buy at least two punnets a week – I can’t get enough of their glorious colour and versatility in the kitchen.Read More
There are many benefits to cooking with coconut oil. It’s full of good fats, nutritious, it can replace dairy in many recipes, it has a pleasant slightly sweet coconut flavour…but, if I’m perfectly honest with you, one of the main reasons I love this new trendy ingredient is because you can melt it in the microwave without it exploding everywhere, as butter has a tendency to do. Who hasn’t felt their heart sink as that sickening ‘pop’ breaks the monotony of the whirring, grinding microwave, knowing the next few minutes will be spent painstakingly wiping a greasy yellow film off the hot plastic, the air heavy with the slightly sickly scent of warm animal fat? Who hasn’t opted for the microwave to melt their butter, out of laziness and not wishing to wash up a pan, only to end up spending those valuable saved minutes scraping away smears of grease? (You can, of course, avoid this problem by covering your bowl or jug with cling film while microwaving, but for some reason I take the chance every time…I think I just like to live on the edge).Read More
I’ve eaten more peaches this summer than probably the last five or six summers combined. I usually give up on peaches in England, because they’re imported rock hard and never ripen properly, tasting sad and woolly and a tragic shadow of what you know they could be. But they’re so cheap and abundant right now that I can’t resist buying a punnet or two in the supermarket, safe in the knowledge that, if all else fails, I can at least rescue them with the application of some sugar and searing oven heat.Read More
For me, mornings are the worst part of winter. I normally count myself as a guaranteed lark, reveling in the early hours of the day, but those early hours in the colder months of the year barely deserve the label ‘morning’. Mornings mean sunshine, beams streaming through the window and the promise of productivity and good things to come. Mornings don’t mean opening your eyes in darkness; the hazy, nauseating orange glow of streetlamps replacing real rays; the rasp of cold, clammy air against your skin as you tentatively reach an arm outside the duvet to check the time and remind yourself that no, it isn’t a mistake, it genuinely is time to get up despite the dark and the cold and the feeling that you might be turning into a hibernating mammal. Mornings shouldn’t mean having to shiveringly shroud yourself in a dressing gown to make the briefest of journeys between bedroom and bathroom, or turning all the lights on in the kitchen just so you can find the all-important switch on the kettle.Read More
Oops, I did it again. Having told myself I was going to completely cease hoarding various fruits in my freezer, and just eat things seasonally without worrying about storing them up for a period of dearth (it's not like we still live in medieval times, where pretty much nothing is harvestable between winter and spring), I found myself handing over the best part of a tenner at the market yesterday for a huge armful of hot pink rhubarb stalks. They were just so pretty, and it was the only stall still selling the lovely slender, pastel pink type, rather than the thicker, more purple-green woody stuff. I told myself it was the last time, but I bet if I see it again next weekend I buy some more.
Fortunately, I bought it at the weekend, and the weekend means brunch. Even though I live on my own, I still bother to cook brunch just for myself. It's a nice way to differentiate the weekend from the more monotonous weekdays, and I have to admit there are few things I enjoy more than sitting down on my own to a big bowl of brunch, a large mug of green tea and Masterchef on my iPad. Plus, while it's in the oven, I find myself doing useful tasks like laundry, tidying and writing blog posts. What a mad crazy weekend life I lead.
I'm not mad enough, though, to faff around cooking something like pancakes just for me. But a big dish of some kind of baked oatmeal is perfect, because you can make it at the weekend then eat the rest during the week - it microwaves well. One of my favourite rhubarb dishes is this blueberry and rhubarb baked oatmeal, where a delicious chewy and crunchy layer of oats, berries and milk bakes over a juicy layer of rhubarb. I'm also a big fan of this rather less fiddly pear and gooseberry oat crumble, which is incredibly easy and just requires mixing an oat mixture with some fruit, then baking for an hour.
One day I decided to try the aforementioned pear and gooseberry recipe with rhubarb. The recipe works because the pears and gooseberries release a lot of juice during the cooking process, which soaks into the oats from below and makes them beautifully chewy and gooey. Rhubarb, too, turns very juicy in the oven, as do blueberries. It seemed like something that had to be done.
I threw in some crushed cardamom with the rhubarb, a pairing which I have loved for a long time - the exotic citrus fragrance of cardamom works beautifully with sweet rhubarb and blueberries. Into the oat mixture I stirred some ground ginger and cinnamon, warming spices that just seem made to go with oats. To moisten the oat mixture, a delicious medley of maple syrup, olive oil, vanilla extract, and a splash of water. I use a beautiful mandarin-infused olive oil, which you can find here if you're interested - it has the most wonderful deep, orange flavour which survives the cooking process to leave a beautiful hint of citrus in each mouthful, a fantastic combination with the cardamom and warming spices.
You may think that breakfast is not the time to be messing around with cardamom, mandarin-infused olive oil, cinnamon and ginger. I think you'd be wrong. Brunch is exactly that: a time to make something a little bit more exciting for breakfast, to treat yourself. Plus, this is hardly a chore - it comes together in minutes and then sits patiently in the oven for just under an hour, leaving you to get on with other things.
Oh, and I haven't yet mentioned - it's delicious. It's like eating crumble for breakfast, as the name suggests, which is pretty much living the dream. You have a beautiful gooey mixture of rhubarb and blueberries, dark and inky purple, sweetened with caramel-scented honey and citrussy cardamom. You have a scattering of oats, crispy and crunchy on top, gooey and sticky underneath where they've absorbed the juice from the fruit, warm from cinnamon and ginger and with a hint of orange and vanilla. The contrast in textures is delicious, and the balance of the warm toasty oats and sharp, juicy fruit.
It feels like a pretty decadent breakfast, but it's actually not bad for you at all. It's even vegan (if you swap the honey for some caster sugar), so hopefully any vegan readers out there will find that exciting. And, I imagine, you could make it gluten-free if you used gluten-free oats and a gluten-free substitute for the spelt flour - buckwheat flour, for example.
Make this for your friends, or make it for just yourself. Either way, I promise you'll be impressed. If you're as big a fan of crumble as I am (and if you're not, why are you reading this blog?!), you will hopefully enjoy the slightly risqué excitement of indulging in it for breakfast (is that a bit tragic? I think it might be, but never mind). It's also one of the prettiest breakfasts you will probably ever make. And, if you have leftovers, they microwave very well - I normally put them in a bowl and microwave for 2 to 2 and a half minutes on full power. Leftovers are fairly unlikely, though - it takes me a huge amount of discipline not to eat the entire dish of this in one sitting (and I promise you, I could, easily).
I can think of few better ways to welcome the weekend than with a beautiful vibrant bowl of sticky, pink-purple, spice-scented crumble.
Rhubarb, blueberry, almond and cardamom breakfast oat crumble (serves 2-3):
- 400g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 150g blueberries
- 3-4 tbsp honey, depending on the sourness of your rhubarb
- 6 cardamom pods, seeds crushed to a powder
- 150g jumbo oats
- 40g spelt flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp olive oil (I use mandarin-infused oil)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp flaked almonds
- Maple syrup, to serve (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 190C.
Scatter the rhubarb and blueberries over the bottom of a baking dish (a 20cm square one is good, or a similar capacity oval one like mine). Drizzle over the honey and sprinkle over the cardamom, then toss together with a spoon.
In a small bowl, mix together the oats, flour, salt, ginger and cinnamon. In a small jug, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract and water. Pour this into the oats then mix together until combined. Sprinkle this mixture over the rhubarb then mix gently, keeping most of the oats on top of the fruit. Scatter over the almonds.
Bake for 50 minutes, until the oats are toasted and crunchy and the fruit juicy. Check it halfway through and if it looks a bit dry, sprinkle over a little water. Leave to cool for five minutes once out of the oven, then serve, with maple syrup if you like.
Another breakfast recipe. I'm not going to apologise, though, because there are several reasons why this is the absolute best thing you could be making and eating right now (I mean 'right now' figuratively speaking, of course, because you might be reading this at night time, in which case it's probably not a great idea to indulge in a vat of hearty oats before lying down).
Firstly, I've read a few of those awful detox-related articles in various newspapers and magazines this week. Curse those publications, for contributing to JIGS, or 'January-Influenced Guilt Syndrome' (I have just invented this, but I think it should be a nationally-acknowledged phenomenon). They're pretty hard to avoid, and the worst part is I only read magazines and newspapers while eating, so invariably there I am, gorging on some giant bowl of carbs, reading an article telling me not to do exactly that. It's pretty depressing reading about ideal lunches based around salad, green veg and lean protein while you're tucking into their opposite.
However, one of the things these articles all have in common is that they recommend oats. Oats are great for several reasons. I won't bore you with the details, but in a nutshell - they're good for your heart, cholesterol, and they fill you up for ages, meaning you don't get hungry at 11am and reach for an almond croissant.
Another thing mentioned by these articles is that people who eat breakfast are often thinner and happier than those who don't. Combine these two pieces of advice, then, and make porridge for breakfast a new year's resolution. If you need another reason, look outside at the fifty shades of grey that is the English winter morning: this is a time for piping hot, steaming breakfasts. Even the sight of wisps of steam emerging from something is enough to calm the nerves and lift the spirits, whether it be a cup of tea, a plate of pasta, or a bowl of porridge.
To some people, porridge is a simple thing of beauty. Pure, unadulterated, creamy oaty goodness. A quiet simplicity. However, I've yet to experience the moment where I feel satisfied by contemplating a bowl of unadorned oats. If the idea of porridge bores you, or - even worse - repulses you, making you think of Dickensian style gruel, then
I can't stress enough the transformative power of a good compote.
By making a delicious fruit-based compote to top your porridge, you turn something plain and worthy into something plainly worth shouting about. You can smother your oats in sweet, colourful fruit, and pretend you're tucking into rice pudding (if you like that sort of thing - I think I'd rather have porridge). Another advantage of this is that it negates the need for sugar in the porridge, as the fruit is sweet enough to balance the bland starchiness of the oats. Not only are you getting rid of the sugar, which is generally accepted as being bad for us, you're adding one or even two of your five a day to your diet, before you've even woken up properly.
Ever since I became captivated by the unusual quince, by its glorious curvature and exquisite perfumed sweetness, I've been coming up with new recipes that make the most of its soft, aromatic flesh. Sometimes these are savoury - particularly good partners are lamb, chicken, nuts and cheese - others are sweet, such as this quince, apple and almond crumble tart or this quince tarte tatin. I recently decided I didn't want to limit the sweetness of the quince to desserts only, and came up with this compote.
If you've never cooked with quince before, this is a good introduction. Its assertive fragrance is tempered by the addition of apples - since the quince is in both flavour and appearance a cross between an apple and a pear, this makes good culinary sense. The beauty of mingling quince and apple is that the latter loses its shape quickly during cooking, disintegrating into a frothy mush, while the quince retains its form and slightly firmer texture. The result is a thick compote of almost puréed apple, studded with golden cubes of tender quince.
I've made this a few times with different spices. First I tried a cinnamon stick, then star anise. Both versions were lovely, but when I experimented on a whim with adding a vanilla pod, the result was so wonderful that it just had to be shared, even if it is a humble bowl of porridge. Vanilla works incredibly well with quinces, which have their own subtle fragrance that the vanilla serves to highlight. It also works wonderfully with apples. Although cinnamon is often the classic spice for apples, I feel that apple and vanilla are a pairing that should be given more limelight. Vanilla emphasises the apple's natural sweetness rather than its acidity.
Using vanilla in this compote also makes it intensely pretty to look at - a beautiful very pale green appley froth, flecked with those tiny black seeds that contain so much promise of flavour, full of golden quince pieces. It's sweet but still quite tart (you could add more sugar if you like), providing a bracing start to the morning and contrasting wonderfully with the comfort blanket that is the creamy porridge. I've used a lovely vanilla pod, along with some ground cinnamon and ginger in the porridge to add a subtle warm flavour. I also put sultanas in my porridge - they swell up as it cooks, giving a lovely contrast in texture. Toffee-like dried fruits combined with the sweet quince and apple is another delicious flavour contrast.
The best way to eat this is on top of the spiced porridge, as in the recipe below. I prefer to spoon the compote, cold from the fridge, over the steaming hot porridge. You get that wonderful temperature contrast when eating it, like having cold ice cream with a hot crumble or pie. It might sound odd, but a spoonful of scalding porridge mingled with the chilled, sweet fruit is beautiful. The contrast between the warmly-spiced sweet porridge and the tart, vanilla-laced fruit is delectable. However, you could warm the compote up in the microwave if you wanted.
If you're still not convinced by porridge, this compote would also make a fabulous dessert served either warm or cold with ice cream, or even with meringues or alongside a rich almond cake. But humour me, and regard my reasons for an oaty breakfast above. I want to convert you.
Spiced porridge with quince, apple and vanilla compote:
For the compote (makes 4-5 servings):
- 2 large quinces
- 3 cooking apples, or 4 eating apples
- 300ml water
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways with a sharp knife
Put the water, sugar and vanilla pod in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
Peel, quarter and core the quinces. Cut each quince segment into small chunks, about an inch wide. Add to the water, then cover and cook on a medium high heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apples into 1cm slices. When the quince is just tender, add the apples. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until most of the apples break down into mush but there are a few solid pieces left. Turn off the heat and leave to cool, then refrigerate.
For the porridge (makes 1 giant serving - I eat a lot of porridge - can be halved as necessary!):
- 100g rolled/porridge oats
- 1/2 tsp
- ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp
- ground ginger
- 80g sultanas
- 300ml water
- 200ml semi-skimmed milk
Put the oats, spices and sultanas in a saucepan. Add the water and milk, then bring to the boil. Cook for around 3-5 minutes, stirring, until the porridge thickens. Add more water or milk if you like it less thick, then pour into a bowl and top with the compote.
Although some of my more rant-led blog posts may encourage you to believe that I am a constantly angry and occasionally violent grumpy old woman, I'm actually quite a nice person. However, there are certain things that you just don't do if you want to remain on speaking terms with me ever again.
For example, cook rice as you would pasta, in a vat of boiling water, draining it with a sieve. This is not acceptable behaviour and I will not tolerate it from anyone in my life.
Secondly, you never, ever, mess up the froth on my cappuccino. Drinking a cappuccino is a ritual, revolving around the steady scraping off of the chocolatey froth from the top with a spoon and the inhalation of its heady cocoa-rich aroma before indulging in the actual coffee lurking underneath. The chocolate is the best bit. I once went on a date with a boy who flagrantly ignored this, leaned over the table and swirled his spoon vigorously around in my cappuccino (which sounds like a euphemism, but is not). I was actually rendered speechless with horror for a good few seconds. Needless to say, it didn't work out. A person who could do such a thing is clearly evil and therefore not boyfriend material.
Thirdly, you don't announce that you can't cook, proudly and as if this is some kind of badge of honour. You say 'I can't cook'; I hear 'I'm a lazy good-for-nothing layabout'. Cooking is pretty much the easiest thing in the world. You don't have to rustle up a three-course feast involving foams, textures and an ingredient 'done three ways'. But to make something like pasta or a curry is about as difficult as cutting your toenails. If you claim you 'can't cook', I'm sorry, but I just think you're too lazy to try. ('Won't cook', incidentally, also hurts me to hear, but is at least more honest).
You don't wave your exposed wrists in my face when I tell you I have a phobia of wrists and blood. That, people, is just unkind and not actually very funny, because I have a tendency to pass out on such occasions and while that may sound hilarious, you really don't want to be responsible for my concussion. Because I will track you down and kill you.
You don't wear leggings that are slightly see-through instead of trousers, i.e. not concealed by some kind of skirt or shorts. This is never, under any circumstances, OK. I'm sorry, but I don't want to go out with you in public if everyone who walks behind you can read the slogan on your knickers.
Come to think of it, slogans on knickers are not really OK either.
On that note. Boys: Tom and Jerry boxers are not - I repeat, NOT - a thing that should exist. If they're made of silk, this does not somehow make it OK. In fact, I think it makes it worse, by suggesting said product is geared towards a hideous hybrid of pre-pubescent child and male porn star. Wearers of such things, you know who you are. If you're ever wondering why we didn't work out, there's your explanation.
You don't always arrive late and/or cancel things at the last minute. This drives me up the wall and is just bad manners. Just because we live in a luxurious world of technology where we can instantly let someone know if we're running late or unable to make it, it doesn't mean it's OK or socially acceptable.
You don't eat at Cafe Rouge. If you eat at Cafe Rouge, consider yourself judged. Like, as judged as you will be on the way into heaven. Except if you eat at Cafe Rouge, you are clearly not going to heaven. But don't worry, I think the food in hell is probably a marked improvement on what that ubiquitous, nauseating, faux-rustic chain serves up on a daily basis.
And, finally, you don't get in the way of my breakfast.
Breakfast, to me, is probably the best time of the day. It's a quiet time, a time of solace and reflection before the rush begins.
(OK, I admit, as a PhD student my life never gets much more of a 'rush' than 'Oh! I must hurry my five-minute commute so I can get to that seminar in time to make a cup of tea first!!! I hope I remembered to leave my lapsang souchong teabags in my locker for just such an occasion!')
It's a time to be on my own and enjoy the first meal of the day in peace. Sometimes I read recipe books or food magazines, or watch a food show on TV. I make sure I always have something delicious to eat and take my time over, whether it's a big bowl of porridge with fruit or a freshly baked loaf of soda bread with homemade jam and a big cup of tea. I have a special mug that I reserve for my breakfast cups of tea. (By 'special', I essentially mean 'giant').
For most people, breakfast is probably a bowl of supermarket cereal and a glass of juice or a cup of tea. Or maybe a couple of pre-sliced bits of flabby, plasticky, mass-produced bread. While I appreciate that a lot of people don't have much time in the morning, I've always felt it worth getting up a little bit earlier so that I can have a proper breakfast. For me, the prospect of a freshly baked loaf or a steaming bowl of porridge is infinitely better than an extra fifteen minutes in bed. I put more effort into my breakfast, I imagine, than most people, rarely eating the same thing for more than a few days in a row.
Take, for example, this recipe. It is inspired by one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten: Joy the Baker's 'Vegan Apple Cranberry Oatmeal Bake', which she posted on her blog a few weeks ago and which instantly shot straight to the top of my 'to-make' list. Lucky recipe - some things languish for years on that list without a second glance. I made it a few days later, and spent the entire time I was eating it groaning with delight in a slightly indecent fashion. I changed her recipe only slightly in that I used pears as well as apples, which I think made it even better. You get a gorgeous muddle of burst, juicy, tart cranberries, sharp apples and soft, grainy, perfumed pear pieces. This is all interspersed with clusters of spiced oats, crunchy and crisp in places and soft and gooey in others where they've come into contact with the fruit juices. It's one of those absolute keepers of a recipe, one that I know will become a staple in my kitchen for evermore.
It is the closest I've ever come to eating crumble for breakfast. Honestly, it's pretty much impossible to tell that it isn't crumble. What's more, it's markedly healthier. This is essentially the holy grail: dessert for breakfast, plus no guilt. That said, it could also be happily served as a dessert with some ice cream, as Joy suggests.
There are some gooseberries in my insanely middle class food hoard (freezer) that have been lurking there for months now; I bulk-bought them in the summer and didn't use them up, saving them - as always with things in the freezer - for a 'special' occasion that never arose. As my freezer was approaching bursting point and I'm going home for the holidays, I wanted to have a bit of a clear out before I left.
I made a wonderful gooseberry crumble a couple of months ago, infinitely better than any previous attempts due to roasting the gooseberries in the oven first with brown sugar then draining most of the juice, to prevent a soggy mess that has been the tragic downfall of previous noble crumbles. The result was beautifully tender, tart berries, slightly scorched in places and wrinkled in others, under a crunchy, buttery crust. It was probably the best crumble I've ever made. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn't have to wait for an occasion when I could justify eating huge amounts of crumble to use up those gooseberries...I could use the same principle of roasting the berries first then blanketing them with a crunchy topping, but in a form that could be eaten for breakfast.
I roasted the gooseberries with brown sugar until starting to burst. They didn't release too much juice, so I didn't drain them. Instead I tossed them with chunks of pear, some mixed spice and some cornflour, to thicken any juices that did emerge and stop everything becoming watery. The crust is a mixture of jumbo oats, spelt flour, salt, mixed spice and ginger, because ginger works very well with gooseberries. It's moistened with maple syrup, olive oil and almond extract, because almond also works very well with gooseberries. The result, which looks like flapjack mixture, goes onto the fruit. You stir it in very slightly, just so that some bits of the crust end up soaked in the bubbling fruity syrup, then scatter over some flaked almonds for extra crunch, and it goes in the oven.
Oh, my goodness. I know I tell you all my recipes are good, even delicious, because obviously I'm a gastronomic genius and I crave love and acceptance, but this is beyond good. As Joy herself said of the cranberry version, it's 'bonkers delicious'. Firstly, the smell as it bakes is better than any scented candle (which makes me wonder if there isn't a gap in the market for brunch-based scented candles). Secondly, it's just so, so tasty. Hopefully you can see from the photos, because words kind of fail me. Imagine the best crumble you've ever eaten. It's sort of like that.
The gooseberries turn puckered and wrinkled, lending their beautiful honeyed, fragrant sweetness to the syrupy juice under the oats. The pears soften but still retain their grainy bite, adding their subtle perfumed flavour to the mix. The juice bubbles stickily. The oats soften and turn gooey in places, crunchy and crisp in others, with a toasty, buttery flavour (but of course, this uses olive oil so has the bonus of being vegan) and a hint of warm spice. There's crunch from the almonds. The whole thing is a delightful medley of textures and a riot of toasty and sweet, syrupy flavours.
This is my new favourite breakfast. Eating it was a perfect ritual: big mug of tea, warm, spiced fruit, comforting crispy oats. I devoured half the dish in one sitting; Joy claims her original recipe served 4-6, but this is clearly some kind of conspiracy. I would be very, very surprised if you managed to make it serve four, let alone six. When I made it for friends a couple of weekends ago, I doubled the quantities, and it comfortably fed four of us. So be generous in your portion estimations.
I'm slightly devastated that I'm going to have to wait until summer to get gooseberries to make this again. Unfortunately it probably means I'm going to hoard even more of these fruits than last year, but at least now I'll know exactly what to do with them. However, out of season, you can use most berries for this: cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. You won't even need to roast them first, in that case - just put them in raw with the pears, cornflour and spices and add the oat mixture. I reckon blackberries would be insanely good.
So, after that somewhat scary list of things not to do if you want to be my friend, I'm going to give you one suggestion of something you should do: make this. And invite me round. Just be prepared for me to eat nearly all of it. And make sure you serve my tea in a suitably large mug.
Pear, gooseberry and almond breakfast oat crumble (serves 2-3):
- 3-4 large handfuls gooseberries, topped and tailed
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 medium pears (I used Rocha)
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 150g jumbo oats
- 40g spelt flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Put the gooseberries in a medium baking dish with the brown sugar and toss together. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so until they have softened and started to release their juice. Quarter the pears and remove the core, then cut half of them into thin slices and half into small chunks. Add to the gooseberries, and toss together with the 1tsp mixed spice and the cornflour.
In a small bowl, mix together the oats, flour, ginger, mixed spice and salt. In a measuring jug or mug, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, almond extract and water. Stir this into the oat mixture until it is moist and starts to clump together.
Pour the oat mixture over the gooseberries and pears, then give it a couple of stirs to roughly mix it together - you still want most of it over the top, though. Sprinkle over the almonds. Bake for around 40 minutes, until the oats have turned crunchy and golden and the fruit has softened. (Check it halfway through, and if it looks like it's a bit dry, add a drop of water to the fruit). Allow to rest for a couple of minutes, then serve.