On my endless quest for simple Paleo puddings I realised that I could create a simple variant on fruit crumble. It doesn’t have that good stodgy texture of a crumble which makes crumble such a favourite with the English (who often have a soft spot for warming stodgy pudding), but the nuts and seeds do add a different texture and flavour that livens up the fruit and this dish has endless variants of different fruits, toppings and serving styles.
As a general rule I always keep blocks of stewed fruit in the freezer. I buy up bags of fruit, such as pears and apples, when they are reduced in the supermarket and receive bagfuls of plums and apples in the summer from friends and family who have fruit trees, chop and stew them, freeze them in small containers and then turn these fruit blocks out into bags (so that I can reuse the containers to freeze more). We also spend the autumn picking enormous quantities of blackberries and freezing these in bags.
If you also keep pre-stewed fruit or berries then I suggest turning out your preferred quantity of these into an oven dish and put them in the oven for about 30 minutes at 175C to defrost, warm up and further stew a little.
Nuts and seeds
Yoghurt and/or crème fraiche for serving
Fruit choices and quantities:
I find apples, pears, plums, rhubarb and blackberries work best for stewing. If you are using any fruits that may be sharp, such as rhubarb or some plum varieties, then I recommend mixing these with sweet dessert apples or pears so that no sugar is needed. If, on tasting the stewed fruit, you find it a bit too sharp, this can be improved by either a teaspoon or two of honey per serving stirred into the fruit or, my personal preference, serving the fruit with a spoonful of plain yoghurt which, strangely, can take the sharpest edge off the fruit.
I usually allow the equivalent of two apples, three handfuls of berries or two sticks of rhubarb per person. For example, if I was going for a plum and pear mix for two people, I might use three pears (which, because they are often quite small, is usually equivalent to two apples) and eight small plums. For an apple and blackberry mix for two I would use three apples and a very large handful of blackberries (or two smaller handfuls).
Quantities are very much a case of judging with the eye. When in doubt cook extra. If there is stewed fruit left over then it can always be frozen in blocks and defrosted at a later date.
Nut and seed choices and quantities:
My choice of nuts and seeds will depend on who is eating it. If I’m doing this for myself as an impromptu treat then I’ll use cashew nuts (because we keep a pot of them in the kitchen) and sunflower seeds. If my brother-in-law was visiting I would just use sunflower seeds, since he is allergic to nuts. If I was serving this to friends I would probably buy a bag of mixed nuts for a variety of flavours.
I usually allow a large handful of nuts and seeds mixed together per serving. If you want to serve this up with the nuts and seeds already covering the dish then it may depend a little on your dish size. If in doubt, put your prepared nuts and seeds into the dish before you start the cooking and check they give an even covering across the bottom (and will therefore provide an even covering over all the stewed fruit once you are ready to serve).
- Peel, core and finely chop the fruit as necessary. I always peel apples and pears, but never plums. If the skin of the rhubarb is tough I peel it off. I chop all the fruit finely except for plums which I tend to leave in slightly larger pieces because it reminds me of the plum crumble they used to serve in the kitchens at school decades ago.
- Place the fruit into a saucepan with about half a cup of water (to stop the fruit from burning and to assist the stewing process).
- Put a lid on the pan and place over a high heat. The quantity of fruit and the size of the pan will affect how long it takes. I would leave it untouched for about 5 mins and then take a look at the fruit and stir it about. If there isn’t much water in the pan anymore, add a little more. If the fruit feels soft then you are probably there, if it is still very firm then you’ll need to give it longer. Be aware that plums and rhubarb, with their more robust fibres, are more forgiving than apples and pears which can turn to a mushy purree if they are stewed for too long.
- Once the fruit is sufficiently stewed either transfer it to an oven dish and place in a warm oven to keep hot until serving, or serve directly to bowls (if you want it to be a “do it yourself” pudding).
- While the fruit is stewing, break the nuts into smallish pieces using a pestle and mortar or by placing them in a bag and hitting them with a rolling pin (or book, or anything fairly heavy that will break them into smaller pieces).
- Spread the “chopped” nuts and seeds on a baking tray and bake at 175C until light brown and roasted – this usually takes about 5 mins. While they roast mix and shake them every couple of minutes to ensure they are evenly browned and to be sure they don’t burn. Nuts with a higher fat content have a tendency to burn quickly unless you keep turning them.
There are a few different ways to serve this and which you choose is most likely to depend on who you are serving it to.
My preference is to serve up the stewed fruit on its own and have small dishes in the centre of the table with the roasted nut and seed mix and with yoghurt or crème fraiche for people to help themselves to as much or as little as they want.
Alternatively, if you want a more complete pudding, I recommend spreading the roasted nuts and seeds quite thickly (about half a centimetre) over the stewed fruit so that it already has the crusty topping when you serve it up.
A flexible pudding in every way!