apple-blackberry-crumble-with-foraged-fruit

Apple Crumble with Foraged Fruit

Apple crumble (or apple crisp as it is known in the US) is a humble but delicious classic of British food. This vegan apple crumble recipe with foraged fruit has an oaty, nutty crumble topping – a perfect autumn dessert.  

A Morning of Foraging

I set out early(ish) on a Saturday morning in early autumn in search of fruit for a traditional crumble.

I head over to some local woodland. The air is crisp, and there is a lovely hazy light that makes everything look magical.

I am in search of apples, which are just starting to fall from the trees. I am also looking for blackberries, which have been looking promising for a few weeks. I am hoping to make a delicious blackberry and apple crumble using late summer/autumnal foraged fruit.  

When I get there though, the blackberries are looking a little sad. Some have started to rot. Many have already been picked by foragers quicker than me. I manage to find a few juicy fruits, although not as many as I was hoping. The juiciest and most delicious–looking blackberries always seem to be just out of reach (which seems like a metaphor for life).

blackberries

There are some deep purple elderberries, hanging in clusters and glinting in the sunlight like little gemstones. I am by no means an experienced forager, but a quick google tells me that these fruits are perfect for crumble, as long as they are purple, and as long as you cook them before eating. Foraging is an old practice, but I am grateful for modern technology to tell me what I can and cannot eat! I had the foresight to bring a pair of scissors with me, and so gently snip a couple of sprigs from the cluster, remembering not to take more than I think I will need (see below for foraging guidelines).

I turn a corner into a wooded area where, thankfully, I see the floor covered with fallen apples, of both the sweet and sour variety – perfect for my crumble recipe! I check them for holes and insects and pick up a few.

To my delight, I also see some pears. They are small, and many have already started to be devoured by insects and the local muntjac deer, but there are still a few that have not yet been discovered and are soft and sweet enough to eat. I toss them into my bag too.

Although I am new to foraging, I am quickly learning that flexibility on your fruit is a must. With my bag of foraged fruit, I set off home to start my foraged elderberry, pear, apple, and blackberry crumble. 

Elderberries

Some species of elderberry are toxic until they are ripe. If you are foraging elderberries, harvest only the soft, plump, dark purple berries.

Cooking the berries destroys the toxins, which make them safe to eat.

Once cooked, elderberries have numerous health benefits, which you can read about here. You can use them in all sorts of ways. This article from the BBC provides some great suggestions for preparing and using elderberries. 

Foraging Rules

The Woodland Trust (UK) has some useful guidelines on foraging.

  • Seek permission
  • Know what you are picking
  • Only collect from plentiful populations
  • Leave plenty behind
  • Do not collect rare species
  • Minimise damage

You can read about these rules in more details here.

A Foraging Tip from a Beginner

As a foraging newbie, I only really have one main tip: Make sure to wear bramble and nettle proof clothing (i.e. jeans and a fleece). Otherwise, you will get covered in scratches and stings, which will make the foraging experience a lot less idyllic. 

At Home

Once I get home, I gently wash my fruit with hot water.

For my crumble topping, I combine brown and white sugar with vegan butter and flour. I use a fork and my fingers to mix the ingredients until it resembles breadcrumbs.

According to Felicity Cloake, Nigella Lawson suggests freezing your crumble before adding stewed fruit. Felicity Cloake endorses this technique. Who am I to disagree with two great cooks? I give it a go, and indeed find that the topping was deliciously crumbly.

To make my crumble a bit more interesting (and also a bit healthier), I decide on a crumble topping with oats and walnuts, which I think will complement the fruit perfectly. 

Cook’s Tips

  • Freeze your crumble topping for 10 minutes before adding to your stewed fruit and putting in the oven. It will make the crumble top crumblier and crunchier.  
  • If you can, try to use a good mixture of sweet and sour apples. 
  • Swap your walnuts for hazelnuts if that is what you have. 
  • Sprinkle a layer of your crumble mixture on top of the fruit before adding your oats to avoid spongy, porridge-like crumble. 

Equipment

  • Scales for weighing ingredients
  • Knife for cutting fruit and nuts
  • Measuring spoons
  • Bowl for mixing flour and sugar
  • Pan with lid for stewing fruit
  • Baking pan for baking the crumble

Cook Time

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves four

Ingredients

For the Fruit:

  • Around 500 grams / 17 oz of apples (peeled, cored, sliced cut into chunks), blackberries and elderberries.
  • 1 tsp of maple syrup or sugar to taste
  • 2 tbsp of water

For the Crumble Topping:

  • 50 grams / 1.7 oz of rolled oats
  • 100 grams / 3.5 oz of plain flour
  • 35 grams / 1.2 ozof walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
  • 3 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp of white sugar
  • 2 tbsp of chilled vegan butter

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C / Gas mark 4 / 356°F.

2. Mix your flour, sugar and chilled butter. Mix with a fork or your fingers until the ingredients resemble breadcrumbs.

3. Put your crumble mixture in the freezer for ten minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put your chopped and cored fruit (in my case apples, pears, elderberries, and blackberries to the pan with a teaspoon of maple syrup and two tablespoons water. Cover and stew on medium heat for ten minutes.

5. When your fruit is cooked, add it to a baking dish. Taste and add a little extra sugar or maple syrup if necessary.

6. After ten minutes, take your crumble topping out of the freezer.

7. Mix in your chopped nuts and sprinkle around 2/3rds of the topping over your stewed fruit.

8. Next, sprinkle your oats over the stewed fruit and crumble topping.

9. Finish by sprinkling your remaining crumble topping over the crumble.

10. Place in the oven and bake for 30–35 minutes, or until topping is golden and the filling is bubbling. 

Apple crumble with foraged fruit and oat crumble topping
Apple crumble with foraged fruit and oat crumble topping

Enjoy!

Enjoy this lovely crunchy, crumbly apple crumble with foraged fruit with some vegan vanilla ice cream or your favourite vegan custard.

I love the combination of the gloriously hot and crunchy fruit crumble with cold and creamy ice cream. Classic comfort food! 

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