If I’d had to choose one thing that cooking could not make better, I’d have put good money on its being a bad (as in unripe and tasteless) strawberry (strawbuggers). I’d be embarrassed even to own up to trying to improve it, were it not for the fact that I read an article by Saint Simon of Hopkinson in which he advised using said strawbuggers in a pie. So I did. Well, that’s not quite true: I am lazier than he is, so I made a crumble. I don’t know what, how or why it happened, but this is a crumble of dreams. The oven doesn’t, as you’d think, turn theberries into a red-tinted mush of slime, but into berry-intense bursts of tender juiciness. This is nothing short of alchemy: you take the vilest, crunchiest supermarket strawberries, top them with an almondy, buttery rubble, bake and turn them on a cold day into the taste of English summer. Naturally, serve with lashings of cream: I regard this is as obligatory not optional.
for the filling:
- 1 lb strawberries (hulled)
- ¼ cup superfine sugar
- ¼ cup almond meal
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
for the topping:
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 5 tablespoons cold butter (diced)
- 1 ¼ cups slivered almonds
- ½ cup turbinado sugar
- heavy cream (to serve)
- Preheat the oven t400ºF. Put the hulled strawberries into your pie dish, I use a round ovenproof pie dish approx. 8 inches diameter x 2 inches deep (approx. 1¼ quarts capacity), and sprinkle over them the sugar, almonds and vanilla extract. Give the dish a good shake or two to mix the ingredients.
- Now for the crumble topping: put the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and rub in the cold, diced butter between thumb and fingers (or in a freestanding mixer). When you’ve finished, it should resemble rough, pale oatmeal. Stir in the slivered almonds and sugar with a fork.
- Tip this over the strawberry mixture, covering the strawberries in an even layer and giving a bit of a press in at the edges of the dish. Set the dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, by which time the crumble topping will have darkened to a pale gold and some pink-red juices will be seeping and bubbling out at the edges.
- Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving, and be sure to put a jug of chilled heavy cream on the table alongside.