Apple, ginger and white chocolate crumble

It’s hard to write about something when you’ve got no distance from it and, like a lot of people, I have been with my child 24/7 for 10 weeks now, except twice when he’s gone out for a walk with his dad without me. It feels like the silent dance of pregnancy, when he moved his knee and I rubbed my ribs, he hiccuped and I had a jolt in my belly, where we flowed over and into each other like the tide going in and out.

He’s growing his hair (it’s that or have a buzz cut), wearing satin silk pyjamas (a purchasing accident he’s thrilled by) and loving bubble baths – is he actually turning into me? He says something with an odd inflection then I realise he’s saying it like I do. All his jokes reference family conversations.

It’s like a second chance at those early months when you’re glued to each other; when you fall asleep together, milk or sleep deprivation dazed, and wake up to find a sticky hand resting on your cheek and a small, hot body that seems to have melded into yours. Those couple of occasions I was alone in the house felt amazing – like my brain sprang back into its normal shape after growing around him. But most of the time at the moment my brain is fuzzy with Bertness.

This crumble was a flavour experiment that worked and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

Let’s not talk about how many it served

3 cooking apples

2 heaped tablespoons soft brown sugar

100g white cooking chocolate in chunks

5 teaspoons of diced stem ginger in syrup

240g plain flour

110g caster sugar

120g chilled butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to 180. Peel and core the apples and slice into thick slices. Dot with teaspoons of the ginger and chunks of white chocolate then sprinkle over the brown sugar.

‘Crumb’ the flour and butter by rubbing it between fingers then stirring in the sugar, or put it in a food processor with the sugar. I always do a lot of crumble topping, more than in most recipes.

Cover the fruit with the crumble and put it in the oven for about half an hour. Serve with cold double cream.

Blueberry, apple and ginger crumble tart

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Today’s my birthday. I was woken up at seven a.m. by a five-year-old carrying a homemade card (a family of badgers, how well he knows me) and whisper-singing Happy Birthday. He helped me open cards and some presents (a bag with a picture of an arctic fox on from him, how well he knows me), gave me some ‘save-for-later’ kisses and cuddles and went to school.

I picked him up from school and we lit candles on a cake I’d bought (he was a little concerned that I shouldn’t buy my own birthday cake and that he should have helped his dad make one – how little he knows him) and he sang Happy Birthday to me again. I can’t reveal what I wished for when I cut the cake of course, but seven, eight and possibly even nine years ago I wished for him.

Yesterday we ate nearly all of this tart between the three of us.

Makes one tart

1 pack of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry

1 small pack blueberries

3 teaspoons diced stem ginger in syrup

1-2 cooking apples, peeled, cored, chunked and cooked gently in a saucepan with 2-3 tablespoons of golden caster sugar till soft but still in recognisable chunks

175g plain flour

100g cubed butter

50g rolled oats

100g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat the oven to 180. Line a pie dish with the pastry, leaving some overhanging the edges. Put on a baking tray, cover with baking parchment (the one from the packet of pre-rolled pastry will do) and weigh down with something like baking beans (I use pebbles). Bake for 10 minutes, remove paper and baking beans, turn the oven down to 160 and bake for another 8 minutes, till golden.

Take it out of the oven and turn the oven back up to 180. Meanwhile put the butter and flour in a food processor till breadcrumbed, then stir through the sugar, oats and ginger.

When the pastry has cooled a bit, snap off any overhanging edges, but not too neatly, tip in the blueberries and dot with the ginger and some of its syrup. On top of that, the apples. Then the crumble. Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve with double cream.

Pork, apple and Cheddar burgers

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This dinosaur’s a better veg eater than Bert is at the moment.

I’ve tried faking a meat bolognaise with finely-chopped aubergine and brown lentils (I’ll be eating that for lunch for three days then), puréeing veg into macaroni cheese and offering multiple veg with any meal. Nope. He’s ‘just not that into it,’ he politely points out. I toyed with the idea of grating a mushroom today then slapped myself firmly on the cheek.

Ultimately I want food to be a pleasure for him not a chore, so still-frozen peas and cucumber it is, for now. This burger has grated apple and cheese in, both of which he’d probably eat anyway, but it tastes nicer that way.

It’s enough for four burgers.  I made two and saved the rest for meatballs in four-veg sauce. Mwah-ha-ha-hah.

Makes 4

500g pork mince

1 apple, peeled and grated

50g Cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix together and shape into patties. Burgers shrink so always make them a little bigger than the bun. I make Bert’s Bert-size then trim the bun to fit.

Fry in a little olive oil on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Check it’s done – no one likes rare pork mince. And tuck in – welcome to the Chinese year of the pig! I’m a pig (literally, Chinese year-wise, and figuratively) so I’m expecting great things.

Overnight apple, maple syrup, raisin and cinnamon porridge

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I didn’t get a picture of Bert refusing to eat this, so here’s a gratuitous one of him having a cuddle with his big brother. The dark shadow sitting at his feet isn’t the ghost that foreshadows some far-off, horrible doom, it’s Ray.

Serves 2

1/2 cup porridge oats

2 cups milk

1 apple, grated

1/2 a cup of raisins

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Dessert spoon of maple syrup

Sprinkling of brown sugar

The night before, put the oats and milk in a pan and pop it in the fridge. It will seem like far too much milk. The next morning warm it gently with the apple, raisins, cinnamon and maple syrup till it’s smooth and creamy (you get a much creamier, softer consistency by leaving it overnight and it cooks more quickly too). Sprinkle on a little brown sugar and offer to a toddler who writhes away from it like it’s poison.

Delicious.

 

Little apple frangipane tarts

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Makes two little tarts

1/2 sheet of puff pastry

1 eating apple, finely sliced

1 egg

40g golden caster sugar

40g ground almonds

40g softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Beat together the egg, almonds, butter, sugar and vanilla essence. Cut two circles out of the puff pastry (mine were about 12 centimetres in diameter). Press a smaller circle into each with the top of a glass and spread a dessert spoon or so of the frangipane mixture over each, keeping within the smaller circle – I’m not entirely sure if you need to bother with this, but I was in a neat-freak mood. Maybe because Bert’s started shaming me by tidying up after me.

Meanwhile, watch your todder finally master the art of forward motion on a wheelybug. (Finally, he won’t back himself into corners and squeal! Oh, he just backed himself into a corner and squealed.) Using the frangipane as a glue, press the apple in each in a spiralling circle (if you can be bothered to be neat) then top with another blob of frangipane to make a kind of frangipane sandwich.

Bake on a lined sheet at 190 or near the middle ish of the Aga roasting oven for about 15 minutes.

Pulled pork soft rolls with sweet apple slaw

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Normally, pulled pork is a whole joint and, to be honest, the reason I’m using diced pork is because we keep getting sent it in our meat delivery. This recipe takes a long time but is very low maintenance.

Even at the time of writing (as it’s in the oven at lunchtime), I have very low expectations of Bert with the slaw, but you never know and my theory is keep offering till they say yes. (In any other context that approach is a little stalker-y.) He will definitely demolish the meat and the bread and there’s always still-frozen peas as a mysteriously fail-safe veg.

Served 2.5

500g diced pork

Dash olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Handful of sage leaves, snipped into shreds

A little salt

A good grind of black pepper

Soft white rolls (I normally serve wholemeal but I feel this recipe needs white)

For the slaw:

2 carrots, thickly grated

1 apple, thickly grated

1 red onion, thickly grated

A couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 teaspoon horseradish sauce

Briefly fry the spices in the oil, then add the meat and brown it. Season, put a lid on and transfer it all to a very low oven for about 5 hours.

Combine all the ingredients for the slaw, split and butter the rolls and pull the cooked pork apart with a couple of forks and you’re good to go.

Lamb burgers, brioche rolls and apple slaw

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I think I might stop admitting how many these recipes serve in our house, but this made 3 big burgers and 2 mini burgers, with rolls leftover for breakfast

For the brioche rolls

250g plain flour

100g butter

2 teaspoons sugar

7g yeast

3 eggs

Beaten egg yolk, to glaze

For the burgers

500g lamb mince

1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried oregano

Black  pepper

1 egg

For the slaw

1 apple

2 carrots

1 onion

4 dessert spoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon creamed horseradish

Yes, making your own brioche rolls when you’ve got a one year old may lead people around you to question your sanity, but there’s not much kneading and only one rise, so these are pretty easy. The recipe for the bread’s from the BBC Good Food website.

Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour (easiest with a food processor), add the sugar, yeast and eggs and mix to a dough. Knead for a couple of minutes (it’s quite wet dough), then turn out onto a floured surface and bring it together into a ball. Divide it into rolls – we had 6 big and 4 little ones – put on a lined baking sheet, cover and leave for two hours to rise.

After they’ve doubled in size, brush the top with egg yolk and put in a hot oven (200 degrees or near the middle-top of the Aga roasting oven) for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the lamb mince with the egg and seasoning and form into burgers. Get some olive oil hot in a pan and cook till done (about 10 minutes for big burgers). Pop some cheese on to melt during the last couple of minutes of cooking for cheese burgers.

Grate all the slaw veg and stir through the mayonnaise and horseradish.

We split our buns open and piled in the cheese burgers, sliced cherry tomatoes and baby leaf spinach, with the sweet apple slaw on the side.

Bramley cheese fingers

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I got the idea for this in Costa Coffee, proof that even in the darkest place a little light may fall.

They had roast tomatoes beneath the cheese, though.

Serves 1.5

1 eating apple, cored and thinly sliced

A scant dessert spoon of butter

2 thick slices of bread

Strong cheddar – enough to tessalate on the bread

Saute the apple in the butter for about five minutes – as long as it takes to wrestle a maniacally laughing baby out of one nappy and into another. Toast one side of the bread. Press the soft, browned apple into the butter in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon to form a rough mush. Spread the mush on the untoasted side of the bread while a baby clings to your knee and howls like a wolf. Cover with cheese and toast under a hot grill till bubbling. Serve the baby’s portion cut into thick fingers.