Hugh loves a fumble – a cross between a fool and a crumble, in which the crunchy topping is baked separately and sprinkled on at the last minute. One of his favourite versions uses plums, cooked briefly into a lovely, juicy compote. In the UK, he uses early season Victorias or Marjorie’s Seedling but good Aussie varieties would be just-ripe Wilsons or Sugar plums.
To make the independent crumble, first preheat the oven to 180°C. Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until you have a crumbly dough. Squeeze the crumble mix in your hands to form clumps, then crumble these onto a large baking tray that has an edge. Spread out the lumpy crumble evenly.
Bake for about 25 minutes, giving the whole thing a good stir halfway through, until golden brown and crisp. Leave to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container. You’ll have more than you need for this recipe, but it stores well for a couple of weeks and can be used to top all sorts of fruity and/or creamy puds.
To make the plum compote, halve the plums and remove the stones. Put the fruit into a heavy-based pan with 50g sugar, the star anise and a little scrap of water – just enough to stop them catching. Heat them gently until the juices run, then simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fruit is soft and pulpy (the skins will probably stay intact).
Let the compote start to cool, but taste while it is still warm enough to dissolve more sugar in it, should you need to. Add as much as you need to get the sweetness you like but leave it reasonably tart – remember that the crumble topping is pretty sweet. Leave the compote to cool completely. (If you have a glut of plums, make up a double or triple quantity of the compote. keep it chilled in the fridge and eat it for breakfast with yoghurt and honey, or dish it up as a simple pud with a slice of plain sponge cake, or a brownie, and/or a scoop of ice cream.)
To serve, divide the plum compote between four serving plates. Add a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt to one side of each plate, then sprinkle a handful of the crumble on the other side, or down the middle, and serve.
Recipe from the River Cottage Australia cookbook by Bloomsbury ($45). Available in all good book stores from April 1 or bloomsbury.com/au/river-cottage-australia-9781408858387
Paul West will be touring Australia throughout April and May. Event details here: bloomsbury.com/au/superpage/paul-west-launching-the-river-cottage-australia-cookbook
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