We were very particular about where we ended up, in particular about staying by the sea, and with some compromise on other things, we now find ourselves surrounded by a neighbourhood of old gardens, dating from a time when people grew their food, and being self-sustaining was just the norm, (and not that long ago, either!)
In the summer it was flowers that did it. A walk around town was a joy from start to finish, a perfumed soliloquy on the glory of the pure, and yes tenacious, smorgasbord we have right here, beneath our feet, spilling over the walls as we pass, nodding to us, brushing our shoulder, whispering in our ears and causing us to forget what we were just saying or thinking, gently persuading us to pause and inspect, or smell, ooh and ahh, and oh, what a pleasure it all was!
And now autumn has arrived, and oh my, it's as though Mother Nature saved the best for last, and has just opened yet another cupboard, beckoning to us in our breathless wonder as we inhale the perfume that is now made into something else, a deep earthy something, born of pollen and spores and the abundance of flora that came together over the summer months, collided in the air, entangled with one another in the tango of love, danced the summer dance before drifting down to settle into the undisturbed sleep of winterness. A potent concoction of humus and decay that reassures the soul.
It's my favourite time of year.
And so, over the last month, a walk around the neighbourhood has been a delight of another, abundant kind. Everywhere you go there is fruit hanging over the walls, apples, pears, and the occasional plum tree. And the blackberries! They are my favourite, just pushing and poking their way through every crack and crevice, through every hedgerow, and the lovely thing is, for all the gorgeousness and pride of these local gardens, there's very few that don't have brambles somewhere amidst the bushes, and there they are allowed to be, undisturbed.
We even have a beautiful big, old walnut tree around the corner, out on the roadside, and not so long ago, before I realised what it was, there was fruit for the taking.
So, yes, there is an inordinate amount of pleasure to be had in abundance from an unexpected source. And this apple crumble has been our go to dish when visiting friends, or having people over. The crumble is particularly yummy. It is gluten, sugar and dairy free, of course, though I guarantee just as palatable to omnivores of all persuasions.
8 eating apples, (or 4 each pears and apples), peeled, cored and quartered,
120ml honey or maple syrup,
60g dried fruit, I used a mix of golden sultanas, cherries, and berries, or a handful of fresh blackberries,
170g fine oatflakes,
30g mixed toasted seeds and nuts,
2tbls unrefined sunflower oil, (I think I'll try coconut oil next time!)
Oven: Gas 5, 190C, 375F
As we are using eating apples, due to the fact there is no refined sugar used in this recipe, there is no need to stew the apples first.
1) Roughly chop the apples and lay them out in an ovenproof dish.
2) Drizzle with about 30g of the honey/maple syrup.
3) Sprinkle with the dried fruit.
4) In a bowl, mix the oatflakes, nuts and seeds.
5) Add the oil and the rest of the honey/maple syrup, and mix until all the flakes are coated in the oil.
6) Sprinkle over the fruit.
7) Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden, and the fruit mixture is bubbling.
If you can manage to not eat every morsel of this when it comes out of the oven, it tastes even better the next morning, as a delicious, nutritious breakfast.
Enjoy it with yogurt of your choice; dairy, soya or my latest obsession, coconut!
Footnote: The other morning I looked out my bedroom window, down at the dozens of shiny red apples that bobbed against the grey sky, and wondered for the millionth time about how on earth we were going to reach them. The lower branches have been picked clean, but all the rest were far beyond our reach. Later in the day, as I sat in work, putting finishing touches to this post, I got a phone call from our eldest lad saying he was just home, and was I aware the apple tree was lying across the garden? The lovely old thing, our collective favourite thing about the whole package that is this house, top heavy with it's bumper crop, added to which was the weight of days of rain, simply keeled over. Just like that. We are all very sad.