A warm welcome to Louise Spiegler, author of The Amethyst Road, a young adult fantasy richly layered with secrets, songs, and social justice. When I asked Louise for a recipe to represent The Amethyst Road, here is what she said:
I love books that describe what the characters are eating, and I notice that I tend to linger a bit over this when I write. I was trying to come up with a recipe that connected with The Amethyst Road, and strangely enough, though I realized that I mention food quite a lot in the book, it isn’t necessarily food that I make – it’s food that seems right in the circumstances of the story.
That said, there is a scene where my main character, Serena, is extremely hungry and in a lot of trouble, and nearly passes out when she smells a delicious pear tart that someone is cooking at a wedding (sadly she never gets a piece!) Quite honestly, tarts are a bit more work than I usually want to undertake when I make a fruit desert. But here is an easy dessert that almost anyone can throw together in about twenty minutes: apple crumble. You can make this with other fruit as well, but if you are using something like plums (to carry through the amethyst theme) you wouldn’t need to add water, since the plums are so juicy anyhow. Crumble is a British version of American “crisps” and I got this recipe from a British cookbook (the author is Mary Berry – isn’t that a great name!). Mary Berry calls for a mixture of lard and margarine, but that sounded appalling to me, so I use margarine or butter. I have a cooking scale, and I know a lot of people don’t, so for reference, 6 oz is probably about one and a half cups. This isn’t a recipe in which measurements have to be exact. If you have a pyrex bowl or pie dish in which to cook it, just fill it about ¾ full with fruit and then add the topping.
6 oz plain flour
3 oz margarine or butter
2 oz brown sugar
4 good-sized cooking apples (like Granny Smiths)
4 oz sugar
2 tablespoons water
Oven: 400 degrees
Start by peeling and cutting up the apples, and layer them into your bowl or dish and add the sugar and water, quickly coating the apples.
Then make the crumble: sift the flour into a bowl, and cut the margarine or butter into small pieces and mix it in. Rub the margarine in with your fingertips (sort of pinching it into the flour) until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the brown sugar and pile the crumble mixture on top of the fruit. You should be able to cover the fruit fully with the mixture and seal it in (this helps the fruit cook). Bake for 35 minutes until the fruit is cooked and the crumble is golden.
You might want to mix a little cinnamon or another spice into the crumble mixture. I don’t usually, but I bet it would be good.
You serve this hot, with ice cream, whipped cream or crème fraise on top. English people tend to make hot custard to pour over it, but it’s hard to find custard mix in America, making it from scratch is probably more trouble than it’s worth. But if anyone British ever offers you custard on hot desserts (or “puddings”, as they call them) it’s definitely worth a try.
Thank you, Louise! Readers, enjoy!