It’s September and I can’t stop thinking about Italy.
I guess it’s my way of not thinking about closed-toed shoes and the blurry-eyed, dark drives into work that are just around the corner. In fact, I’m so obsessed with Italy at the moment that I’ve taken to using the only three Italian expressions that I know—grazi, caio and prego—around the house.
My youngest ponytail looked at me with an odd expression at breakfast this weekend and said: “did you say pregnant?” Definitely not. No chance there. Thank you, but no. “I said you’re welcome . . . in Italian, and if you’re really, really, really good maybe we’ll go there someday.”
Because if I have my way, we’ll go there next summer as a family to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary. But alas, it’s still a dream of mine. I just need to convince the rest of my family that we need to go there . . . and then start saving my
pennies loonies wherever humanly possible.
To keep my family in the right frame of mind, I’ve enlisted a little help from the domestic goddess and what has become my favourite Nigella cookbook: Nigellissima. I’ve already made three recipes from the book and I’ve flagged about 10 more to make as soon as possible. (And all three recipes have been highly rated by the ponytails!)
Given that plums are abundant in September, I decided to make Nigella’s Ruby-Red Plum & Amaretti Crumble this weekend. I really think that plums are an under-rated fruit, but this crumble could change all that. The crumble was wonderful and the amaretti in the topping is pure genius, if you ask me. I’ll be making this one again . . . soon!
So for all of you who love Italy as much as I do, I have one important question for you: Positano, Venice or Rome? Or perhaps all three?
Before I sign off, I must apologize for disappearing from the blogsphere this summer. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will say that it has been a challenging year in a number of ways. I’ll do my best to stay in touch when I can . . . I hope you understand. I certainly have missed connecting with all of you and hope things turn around this fall.
Ciao for now!
Ruby-Red Plum & Amaretti Crumble
From Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima
For the fruit base:
4 ounces Amaretti cookies
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2-1/4 pounds red plums, quartered if large, halved if small, pits removed
2 tbsp sugar
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (unwaxed)
For the crumble topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
7 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into osmall dice
3 tbsp sugar
1 9″ ovenproof pie dish
- Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and slip in a baking sheet at the same time. Put the amaretti into a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin or similar, until reduced to coarse crumbs, then decant them into a bowl.
- Melt the two tablespoons of butter in a large pan (that has a lid), add the prepared plums, sprinkle in the two tablespoons of sugar, add the lemon zest and juice and shake the pan over the heat, cooking for two minutes without a lid and two further minutes with the lid on. These timings are based on having plums that are ripe: if the fruit is disappointingly unyielding, be prepared to cook for longer with the lid on, checking frequently. You may need to add the juice of the remaining half lemon – and more sugar – if cooking for much longer.
- Pour the plums (with care – they’re hot) into a 23x6cm/9x3in deep ovenproof pie dish and set to one side. Already the red skins will have made a gorgeous garnet gravy. Sprinkle in two tablespoons of your amaretti crumble.
- To make the crumble the easy way, put the flour and baking powder into the bowl of a freestanding mixer, shake to mix, then add the small cold butter cubes and beat, not too fast, with the flat paddle until you have a mixture rather like large-flaked oatmeal. Or you can do this by hand, just by rubbing the butter into the flour with your fingers.
- Add the sugar and mix with a fork, then tip in the rest of the amaretti crumbs and use a fork to mix again. Pour the mixture over the waiting fruit in its pie dish, making sure you cover right to the edges to stop too much leakage: although for me, some of the rich-hued syrup spurting out over the crumble topping is essential.
- Place on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes; you should see some ruby bubbling at the edges, and the top will be scorched gold in places. If you can bear it, let this stand for 10-15 minutes before eating, with ice cream, whipped cream or mascarpone.
In Canada, we celebrated Victoria Day today. It’s a holiday that we embrace with open arms because it usually marks the first long weekend of the year with warmer weather–and this year didn’t disappoint. The weather this weekend was spectacular.
As it heats up outside, I the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I love it when there’s an easy alternative. Such was the case this weekend when I made a humble bumble crumble in a cast iron skillet on the barbeque. I cooked it on our barbeque at home and then transported it (by wagon) to our friends that live in the neighbourhood. It was so easy to throw the skillet on the barbeque at low heat (just to warm the crumble) while we ate dinner. I’ll definitely be making this again (and again) this summer. Now I know that for some of my European friends barbequing isn’t an option, so of course this crumble would work just as well in the oven–with or without the skillet.
In case you’re thinking that this sounds and looks a lot like a crisp, I did a little research and confirmed that according to my trusted Cobblers, Crumbles and Crisps book that I’ve had for decades, crumbles and crisps are interchangeable. Both have a sweetened fruit base topped with a crumbly shortbread pastry. Apparently crisps are called crumbles in Great Britain, where the toppings often contain rolled oats in addition to flour. I’ve used a family recipe for the crumble–adding the slivered almonds and a bit of cinnamon to the mix.
I’ll take a crisp or a crumble for dessert any day. It’s such a simple dessert, but when served warm with ice cream, there’s nothing like it.
Bumble Crumble [in a Skillet]
- 4.5 cups of mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
- 1 medium apple, peeled and diced
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- ¾ cup rolled oats
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp slivered almonds
Mix the fruit with the sugar and corn starch and place in the bottom of a 10″ cast iron skillet. (A 10″ pie plate can be used if you are not cooking this on the barbeque.)
In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, cinnamon and slivered almonds. Mix in butter with a fork or stand mixer until the topping is crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.
Turn barbeque to high heat for about 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and turn off one side of grill. Place skillet on side without direct heat and cook for 40 to 45 minutes until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.
If using an oven, bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbly.