Caramel Apple Crumble

Hello January. My last recipe was a healthy salad option. This is a decadent and delicious crumble. Absolutely packed with warming buttery goodness. As you might be able to tell, I don’t really go in for the whole health kick January thing. Yes, some post-Christmas moderation is absolutely fine, if that’s what you want to do to feel better in yourself. But cutting out entire food groups is the road to sadness. January is hard enough for us all without ditching stuff that can bring us pleasure. I plan to spend January eating plenty of tasty homemade food, and that will include salads and soups and stews and fish, but also crumbles and brownies and pie. Because I’m a realist (about this, anyway).


Also, I love crumble. Humble crumble is an underrated dessert. But god, it’s just so delicious. And easy. And adaptable. This week I am bringing you this classic apple crumble number with a caramel and calvados twist. Next week, I am going to bring you a completely different crumble recipe. It will use the exact same proportions and method, but I’ll tweak the ingredients to make a different dish.


As I write this, it’s flat and grey outside. The trees are bare. It’s pouring with rain. The cat is bored and fed up of hanging out with me, but doesn’t want to leave because the weather is so grim, so she’s just giving me evil looks as if I am the one who has ruined the outside world. This is the morning that most people have gone back to work – as, indeed, have I, but I get to do the work from my living room. This month can be rough on us all, so let’s try to be kind to ourselves and each other. For instance, I am going to continue to lavish affection on the cat, even though she keeps sitting on the keyboard while I am trying to type because she’s cross that I’m working instead of playing with her. Baby steps.



Once you have the basic proportions and method down, you can do a million different things with a crumble recipe. I’ll give you another example next week. Because I care about you all.

This will make 6-8 portions. I am not saying it will feed 6-8 people, because we can happily polish this off between the two of us. Not in one sitting. I think crumble makes a great breakfast.


For the crumble topping

240g plain flour
120g golden caster sugar
130g cold butter, cut into pieces
100g hazelnuts, blitzed in food processor or finely chopped

For the base

200g sultanas
100ml calvados (or brandy of your choice, or feel free to skip the alcohol)
6 medium eating apples
70g unsalted butter
70g light brown soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g caramel (homemade or from a jar)

Cream or ice cream, to serve


  1. Pop the sultanas and the calvados in a bowl together so the sultanas can absorb some of the alcohol.
  2. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour with your fingers until you reach breadcrumb texture. Stir in the hazelnuts. Spread the crumble evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly coloured.
  3. Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apples into chunks. Put the butter and sugar in a large saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for a couple of minutes until everything is dissolved, and the mixture is a caramel colour. Stir in the apples, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sultanas, any remaining alcohol that hasn’t been absorbed, and cinnamon, and cook for 5 minutes more. Tip the mixture into your chosen crumble dish. Dot it with spoonfuls of the caramel.
  4. Top the fruit with your crumble. Cook the whole thing in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until hot through, golden, and bubbling. Serve with cream or ice cream.


Continuing apace with my recent themes of delicious things you can do with ice cream and things that might help you out at dinner parties, I bring you Sgroppino: an Italian ice cream cocktail. Well, my version of it, anyway. The original is usually made with lemon sorbet and limoncello, but I was sent this White Chocolate and Strawberry Meringue Ice Cream from Northern Bloc to play with and my immediate thought was that it would be great in a dessert cocktail.


These little Sgroppinos are excellent because they are both a simple dessert, and an exciting alcoholic drink. You could also go all out and start off the evening with a round of these, as an indicator of the excellence of things to come.

I actually first learned about a version of this recipe when working with the cookery school. We sometimes served it at the end of hen parties, and it always went down particularly well. This is obviously my own interpretation of the recipe and, of course, you could go further and try it with different berries or spirits.




Ingredients (per person, multiply as needed)

1 scoop of White Chocolate and Strawberry Meringue Ice Cream
2 tbsps Chambord (cassis also works well, as does vodka, or liqueur of your choice)
1 tbsp strawberry coulis (see below)
1 glass Prosecco
fresh strawberries and/or a handful of pomegranate seeds

for the strawberry coulis (or you can buy some)

125g strawberries, fresh or defrosted from frozen
icing sugar
a dash of lemon juice


  1. If you are making your strawberry coulis rather than buying it, blitz the strawberries in a food processor or liquidiser with a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste, then add more sugar or lemon juice as needed. Sieve, then set aside until needed.
  2. To make the Sgroppinos, put a generous scoop of the ice cream into your chosen glass, top with your chosen liqueur and your strawberry coulis, then fill the glass with Prosecco. It will fizz up in a very satisfying way. Finish with your choice of fresh fruit.
*Disclaimer: The ice cream used in this review was kindly provided to me free of charge by Northern Bloc, but I genuinely loved it and all opinions are, as ever, my own.

Black Cherry and Chocolate Tart

I was challenged by Canned Food UK to create a recipe using a canned food, and I’ve gone for something easy but completely delicious. Black cherry and chocolate tart just sounds good, right? I mean, cherries and chocolate are a classic match. Think black forest gateaux. The great thing about this cherry and chocolate tart, though, is that it’s actually really simple to make. Even though it looks pretty fancy.

Canned cherries are definitely your friend here. Cherries are one of my favourite fruits, and they come up on this blog a lot. While fresh cherries are amazing, they won’t always be in season and they are often expensive. Plus, using fresh cherries here would mean adding the extra step of stoning your fruit. And that isn’t going to be happening in a recipe that’s all about simplicity.


We’re also saving time and effort on the base. I love pastry, and I love making it, but I’m not going to lie – sometimes I just cannot be bothered. You could definitely make this cherry and chocolate tart with a traditional shortcrust or sweet pastry, but you don’t need to. As ever, biscuits are your friends. Biscuits will always be there for you. Biscuits won’t let you down.


So we’ve got a dark and chocolatey buttery biscuit base (any excuse). We’ve got a rich and smooth chocolate filling, just holding together and then melting away in the mouth. And we’ve got those plump black cherries, steeped in a decadent kirsch syrup.

I might go and make it again, actually.



You can add a few little flourishes to this chocolate and cherry tart. Or you can skip them entirely. It’s completely up to you. It’s beautiful plain, but if you feel inclined to finish it off with crème fraiche and almonds, it’s a little extra touch that makes this tart even more special.


1 can (425g) pitted black cherries
150ml kirsch (brandy or Grand Marnier also work well, or use juice from the can if you are avoiding alcohol)
30g caster sugar
Pared strip of lemon zest

For the base

30 Oreos (chocolate bourbon biscuits also work well)
50g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
50g butter
½ tsp sea salt

For the filling

300ml double cream
2 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp sea salt
50g butter, cubed
200g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
50ml whole milk

To finish

A handful of whole almonds, finely chopped (optional)
Crème fraiche to serve (optional)


  1. Drain your cherries, then place them in a small saucepan with the kirsch, sugar, and lemon zest. Simmer for five minutes, then take off the heat and leave to sit while the flavours infuse.
  2. Pop your biscuits and chocolate for the tart base in the food processor, then give them a good blitz until you’re left with crumbs. Add the butter and salt, and blitz again until the mixture clumps. Press your biscuit mixture into the base of a non-stick, loose-bottomed tart tin of around 23cm diameter. Work the mixture up the sides of the tin, pressing it into the flutes with your fingers, and make sure the base of the tin is well covered and as smoothly lined as possible. Pop the tin in the fridge for the base to set.
  3. For the filling, put your cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Put your butter and dark chocolate in a glass bowl, then pour over the boiling cream mixture. Stir until smooth and blended – it might take a couple of minutes to come together, as the chocolate melts. Stir in the milk and keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
  4. Drain your cherries, remove the lemon zest, then spread them across the base of your tart tin. Carefully pour the liquid chocolate mixture over the cherries. Pop your tart in the fridge for at least two hours to set. Finish with chopped almonds and serve with crème fraiche, if you like.



Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 7

The week started with a cancelled train. Checking the TrainLine app to see how the 6.55 was doing before I left the house (might burn me once…) I saw that its Monday morning excursion had been curtailed due to an ominous and non-specific ‘train fault’. Happily for me, this was the one morning that I didn’t have to be at school early, as we had individual assessment appointments and I was lucky enough to snag a later one. I had been planning to go into school at my normal time anyway to get some work done, but I saw the cancelled train as a fairly clear sign and jumped back into bed for an extra hour of dozing. This seemed like a fantastic idea at the time, but I’m pretty sure it was this change to my obsessive and rigid routine which put me off my game for the rest of the day. I have to point at something rather than admitting I’m just an idiot. We had a very light cooking prep session in the afternoon, but somehow I managed to mess up my Danish pastry dough, making it too firm despite following the recipe to the letter (still don’t know what happened), and burnt my fingers by using them to test the consistency of sugar syrup (I admit that this sounds very very stupid but this is genuinely how they tell us to test sugar syrup).


On Tuesday, though, the week got going in earnest and I perked up a bit. This week was the week of sugar, baking, patisserie, petit fours, and all things that are good and right in the world. Tuesday morning’s dem, delivered by Ansobe and Jane, was all about petit fours. Think macarons, marshmallows, nougat, caramels… most peple were groaning and sugar-dazed when the morning was done, but I was in my element. Nibble on those scrap ends of marshmallow? Yes please. Spare piece of nougat? Don’t mind if I do.

In the afternoon we continued with our Danish pastry dough (I was pretty sure mine was fundamentally wrong and doomed at this point but marched along regardless), and made a delicious fougasse. Crusty but light, soft and pillowy, spiked with sea salt and Italian herbs, a loaf bigger than your head – it was surprisingly easy and completely wonderful and I will definitely be trying it again at home. We used a biga for the first time (another word for starter), which gives the bread a depth of flavour that you don’t get without some form of slow-fermenting yeast. I’ve made sourdough at home so the process was not completely unfamiliar, but it was far less hassle than your standard starter and worth beginning 24 hours early.

On Wednesday we had our last ever in-house dem, delivered by Phil and Belinda. It was all about fish – which I love almost as much as I love all things sweet – so I was very happy to munch away on sardines, salmon, and cod, as well as more luxurious and exciting treats such as octopus, John Dory, turbot, and even caviar. I longed anew for a decent fishmonger in Oxford. Does anyone know where I can get octopus? Not a rhetorical question, I really want to try braising it at home.


The afternoon was unexpectedly lovely. The morning group had escaped the kitchen about forty minutes late, so we approached the session with trepidation, but it was very relaxed and I even got out a little early. We made the dessert pictured at the top of this post: almond panna cotta; apricot sorbet; almond crumble; hibiscus meringues; caramelised hazelnuts; sugar work; fresh apricots and raspberries; and micro herbs. You know, casual. It was marvellous, and I got told my plate was pretty, which is always a nice surprise. We followed it up with Danish pastries made completely from scratch (see previous moaning in this post). My pastry was pronounced a little tough, but overall everything went unexpectedly well and I think my fellow commuters were probably slightly confused by the overwhelming smell of fresh pastry on the 17.49 to Worcester.

Thursday was unphotogenic but interesting. We were visited by Chris Barber for an all-day session focused on how to set up a food business. As this is what I hope to do when I graduate, the whole day was very helpful and informative, and Chris was a compelling and knowledgeable presenter. We had to split into groups to prepare a business idea to pitch for the end of the afternoon, and then vote on the best plan. Our little group won the vote – thanks mostly to the excellent presentation skills of Laura – so basically I’m pretty sure we’ll all be successful business tycoons before the year is out.


Friday was the day I’d been looking forward to since I started at Leiths: petit fours day. It’s funny how divisive it was, as a day – some people were in their element, and some didn’t even bother coming in to school. As has probably become obvious by now, I am all about the sugar, and so I was definitely in the first camp. We had a lovely, relaxed day and, as a table, made chocolate caramels with vanilla sea salt, passion fruit pate de fruit, toasted pistachio and almond nougat, lemon sherbet marshmallows, macarons with pistachio and raspberry ganaches, and chocolate truffles covered with tempered chocolate. I love making macarons anyway, but the chocolate caramels were a surprise favourite too. I took a huge box of goodies home and it was both impressive and worrying how quickly James and I ploughed through it.


I am now at the end of a cheeky three day weekend, and somehow it’s almost time to go back to school again. Stay tuned for next week, which will include jam-making, an impressive cake, and an abundance of shellfish.