Growing up, we lived in a house on the hill overlooking the little sleepy town of Raglan, NZ. In winter there were days when the fog barely lifted it's thick blanket and our house remained shaded by the huge pine trees growing at the top of the hill. On those days the ice was set so thick on the windscreen of our old Toyota ute that mum would have to come out with a jug full of water to pour over as we sat in there waiting, all ready to go to school.
If we were lucky coming home in the afternoon we'd be greeted by the smell of food wafting out the door and along the path. Often it was freshly cooked pikelets that us kids then smeared with butter and drizzled with golden syrup or sometimes it was a bowlful of mamas vegetable soup, that had no doubt been bubbling away on the stove since lunchtime.
For dinner during the cooler months we'd feast on lentil spaghetti, mushroom stew and kumara + carrot loaf and ever so occasionally mum would go the whole-hog and make one of her killer crumbles to top it all off for dessert. It is all of these things that I think back to when I feel like eating some good old comfort food and while it is true nowadays more often than not I'll make a curry to warm myself up on a cool winters day, it will always be the food of my youth and the memories they bring, that conveys comfort to me more than anything else.
Back then we didn't own an oven, instead mum used to keep our old coal-range stoked up at all times and this was used to cook almost everything she made. From distant memory I think we also had an electric stove-top at that stage, but the electric oven didn't come until much later on and that microwave oven that came into vogue in the 80's? Well, that has never found a place in any of our kitchens.
Bread and crumbles were baked in the coal-range, custard was made on it, clothes were hung up to dry over the rails and hot water was heated via the wetback. In the 80's crumbles were simple. Stewed apple and rhubarb or apple and feijoa (my favourite) if you're lucky, topped with a crumble made of rolled oats, butter, flour and honey. Here I've used brown rice flour and a combination of almond meal (ground almonds) and sliced almonds in place of the more common oats and flour to make a beautiful crisp gluten-free crumble. Autumn comfort food at it's best.
raspberry, pear + almond crumble
You can use whatever fruit you like for this crumble, just make sure you stew it lightly first. If using frozen berries I recommend you try and buy locally grown or organic ones if possible, as nasties have been found on many of the cheaper imported frozen berries you find at the supermarket. If you don't want to use berries, some thinly sliced plums would also work great if they are still in season where you live, or if you happen to live in NZ make the most of those beautiful feijoas while they are still around and enjoy some for me! I don't tend to sweeten my fruit at all and find the crumble topping more than enough sweetness for me, however if you like you can add a touch of honey or sugar to the fruit as it cooks if preferred.
3 large pears (approx. 850g), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons water
1 cup (125g) raspberries (I used organic frozen ones)
1/2 cup (55g) almond meal (ground almonds)
1/2 cup (70g) fine brown rice flour
60g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup (65g) panela (rapadura) sugar, or use soft brown
2/3 cup (50g) sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Place sliced pear, zest and water into a medium saucepan, bring up to the boil, reduce and simmer 10-12 minutes or until pear is just tender. Stir at least 1-2 times during cooking to ensure the top pieces are getting some heat too. Remove from the heat, transfer pear and their juices to a 2 litre capacity oven-proof dish. Scatter over raspberries.
Combine ground almonds and brown rice flour in a bowl, rub in butter until it resembles fine bread crumbs and mix in sugar and almonds. Scatter over the top of the fruit and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crumble is golden and the fruit bubbling up.
Serve warm with natural plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream.