Foraging Haul & Dairy-Free Crumble Recipe

I mentioned in my last blog that I was hoping to get out to pick some blackberries and maybe even some other hedgerow goodies this weekend. There wasn’t time on Saturday as The Husband had scheduled in a test drive for a new car. This was set back an hour later than we’d originally planned and with the children happily playing at their Grandparents’ we headed out for lunch sans babies, which was an unexpected treat. We dropped into the Perch which is a fab cafe / restaurant on the south coast. It’s super casual and right on the beach – it’s really child and dog friendly, so it’s a bit of a family fave of ours. Equally nice as a couple without children too. The views from the huge floor to ceiling windows are just amazing. Pebbles, sea and sky + good company + yummy food and a glass of rosé = perfect weekend hang out.

So yesterday morning, after breakfast and with the sun streaming through the windows I suggested that we grab some containers and head off on a foraging expedition. Sadly, our usual spot for blackberries was pretty barren. Most of the berries had dried up or had gone over. We sort of expected that this may have happened as there seemed to be so many early blackberries this year and we knew we’d left it a little late but we didn’t expect it to be quite so bleak. We did the best we could and picked any last remaining plump, shiny berries – we managed to pick a handful, no more than 50g. There were no elderberries either. Disappointing. On the other hand, the disappointment was assuaged by our apple haul. There are about 8 huge apple trees in the community orchard where we like to walk with the girls and they were laden with fruit. We were completely spoilt for choice. 

We weren’t expecting to pick apples and with no-where to put them we started to load up the buggy until I remembered the reusable cloth bag stashed in my rucksack – this bag has come in handy on so many different occasions. We picked about 10 huge apples – some were poked from a tree with a large umbrella. Everyone was in fits of giggles as the Big One uncontrollably waved her dad’s long umbrella around in the tree whilst sat on his shoulders. 

On the way home there was much talk about apple pies and crumbles. The girls even had a good go at munching away on the cookers we’d picked (I have no idea how they tolerated even one bite of the sharp flesh). Despite so many apples, everyone seemed to have their hearts set on blackberry crumble. We definitely hadn’t picked enough to make a crumble. We decided that we would head out to a different spot after lunch if the weather held. 

We’ve recently discovered another local walk with an abundance of hedgerows and fruit trees and the last time we went there were heaps of plums. Perhaps our luck would hold and we could add a few extra blackberries and a bag of plums to our fruit bounty. We arrived with dark clouds over head and it was the same story. Blackberries few and far between and even worse, not a plum in sight. We added some rosehips to our box and with enough blackberries to make a decent apple and blackberry crumble we headed back. Spots of rain were starting to fall, so we decided to call it a day and head home.

Once home we made cups of tea and started on the crumble. I’ve always involved the girls in cooking from a young age, so I measured the margarine and flour into a bowl and handed it to the Big One with the instructions “use your crumble fingers until it looks like crumbs”. She did a great job. And it kept her quiet and occupied as I did the chopping and cooking.

The Husband is allergic to milk, so we use dairy-free margarine in place of butter in our crumble recipe. We also add in oats and flaked almonds for extra crunch. Once cooked, we spoon greedy potions straight into our bowls and serve with lashings of custard, cream or ice-cream. Alpro and Provenal both do a mean ready-made soya custard, Birdseye custard powder is dairy-free and can be made up with any milk alternative or you can make egg custard from scratch with your favourite non-dairy milk.

With our annual crumble made and eaten (there are leftovers for tonight too) and the house thoroughly decluttered and autumn cleaned, we’re now completely autumn ready. 

Hedgerow Crumble Recipe

800g of any fruit that you can gather – we used 250g blackberries and 550g apple (about 3 medium sized or 2 large apples)

A sprinkle of sugar and splash of water to cook the apples in

75g margarine (we use Biona sunflower spread) 

125g plain flour

25g sugar

25g jumbo porridge oats

25g flaked almonds

Teaspoon of cinnamon 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (or equivalent)
  2. Dice the apple (and any other hard fruits), put in a saucepan with a splash of water (about 2 tbsp) and a sprinkle of sugar (about 25g) and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Put any soft fruits (e.g. blackberries, elderberries) straight into the pie dish. 
  3. To make the crumble topping rub the flour into the margarine (or butter) until it resembles fine bread crumbs
  4. Then add the sugar, oats, almonds and cinnamon. Mix well.
  5. Strain the hot apple mixture and add to the pie dish. Pour the crumble topping all over the fruit and smooth over.
  6. Cook in the hot oven until the top is golden brown (about 25 – 30 minutes)

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