There is absolutely nothing wrong with a plain crumble, but having given several suggestions for them in How to Eat, I reckoned it was better to offer you here one of the crumbles I do most often when I’ve got people coming for dinner. This plum and pecan crumble (which can just as easily be made with walnuts) is comfortingly autumnal. If you want, use ordinary white sugar in place of the demerara; all I do urge is that you use self-raising flour, not the normally stipulated plain.
For the filling
unsalted butter 30g, plus more for greasing
plums about 1kg
light muscovado sugar 2-4 tbsp, depending on sourness of fruit
cornflour 1 scant tbsp
For the crumble topping
unsalted butter 150g cold, diced
self-raising flour 250g
demerara sugar 150g
pecans 200g, some chopped finely, others left larger or whole
Preheat the oven to 170C fan/gas mark 5 and put in a baking sheet. Butter a 20cm round pie dish.
Halve the plums and put them cut-side up in the dish. You may find you don’t need all of them, but squeeze in as many as will fit comfortably. Dot with the butter, sprinkle with the sugar and put, uncovered, in the oven for about 20 minutes. I know it’s not normal to cook the base of a crumble first, but I find plums need a head start. You want the fruit’s juices to have run a little and the fruit itself to be moving towards tender.
While the plums are cooking, make the crumble topping (or you can make this in advance if you prefer). Rub the butter into the flour, either with your fingers or in a freestanding mixer with the flat paddle. I find the processor makes the crumb a little too fine and you want texture, not Caribbean sand, here. But what you can do to make this better is finish off by rubbing the mixture through your fingers for a while – soft pad of thumb fluttering against soft pad of index or first three fingers – to clump up some of the topping. Fork the sugar and nuts into the crumble mixture, and set aside for a moment.
When the plums have had their time in the oven, pour some of the liquid into a little bowl in which you have placed the cornflour. Stir to a paste, then stir into the plum dish. Now add the crumble topping, pressing down lightly around the edges. Put the crumble back on the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 25 minutes or until the crumble is cooked and speckled golden-brown.
Eat, for choice, with custard.
From How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £28)