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.

Blueberry and lemon loaf (or 12 muffins)


Me and Bert took my mum out for dinner for Mother’s Day, to a perfectly family-friendly restaurant (in fact, the waitress was either Bert’s soul mate or a highly-skilled professional charmer, and exchanged dinosaur facts with him for hours, seeming genuinely disappointed to serve other tables). But yet again we were given the blandest of food options for Bert. Even though I had delicious sticky ribs, coleslaw and fries and my mum had an amazing fish pie, his options were the usual fish fingers, chicken nuggets, macaroni cheese and spag bol. No kids’ cutlery, so he had to struggle with even larger than usual adult ones (or a teaspoon). And I’d lugged a bag of stickers, books and playmobil people with me to try to stave off the moment where all the child-free adults in the room collectively put a court order on him to leave. (Despite this, the ten minutes before we left were taken up with trying to coax a three year old in full Gruffalo gear out from under the table.)

I thought, I should set up a Me and Bert cafe! Books and lego at every table, children’s plates and cutlery, a different, free, ‘try something new’ tiny-taster bowl with the kids’ meals each day, children’s loyalty cards and space for push chairs. Child-friendly food that’s tasty first, nutritious second and edible by actual adults. We’d clean up with the pre-school mums and dads and grandparents! We’d only need to open school hours…

Then I remembered that, as a work at home freelancer, my standard day encompasses putting dinner on, stroking the dog’s ears (not a euphamism) and making an impulsive cake for pudding. And I realised that the reality of running a cafe  would be a huge shock to my  system, one that would probably age me ten years in a week. Nevermind my less than perfect cooking days suddenly being extremely public.

But here’s a cake that would have been on the menu.

Makes a small loaf

150g soft butter

150g golden caster sugar

150g self-raising flour (hold a tablespoon back to toss the blueberries in)

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 tablespoon whole milk

3 eggs

Grated zest of one lemon

100g blueberries, tossed in a tablespoon of flour (supposed to help them not to sink) (update: but didn’t)

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 degrees and line a small loaf tin or 12 muffin holes.

Beat everything except the blueberries together for a good 5-10 minutes (about 4 minutes in a mixer), till it’s pale and fluffy. Gently fold through the blueberries and bake for about an hour (or 15-20 minutes for the muffins), till it’s golden and firm on top. Hide from your child’s father till dinner time. (The cake, that is – I’m not suggesting a game of hide and seek.) Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or yoghurt.

Banana and blueberry cake

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Today we went on a steam train (exciting) and met Father Christmas (terrifying) but Bert danced his strange, limping jig all the way back to the car so I’m guessing it was all good.

Makes a 23 cm cake

2 eggs

4 oz golden caster sugar

4 oz soft butter

4 oz self raising flour

1/2 small punnet blueberries

1 banana

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

If you’ve got a food processor, just break the banana into big chunks and then bung it all in and beat till smooth. Otherwise, mash the bananas and do it the hard way. It goes into a greased tin (a little round one – about 23 cm) and into the oven at 180 for 25 minutes, or the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven.

We had ours with a yoghurt moustache. And seconds.