What a difference a week can make. Today, as I look out the window the sun is shining, the sky is blue; the air is crisp and fresh. It is a beautiful winter’s day. This time last week it was quite different. We live in the Thames Valley but luckily for us we live high up on a hill. At the bottom of the hill and in indeed all surrounding villages have been badly flooded. At one point it felt like we were in the middle of a war zone – there were police, firemen, army personnel, helicopters, you name it, everywhere. Roads were closed, schools closed, functions postponed, nothing was as it should be.
I spent the week making and delivering meals to a local church to help feed the volunteers and displaced families. Last Friday the local village hall hosted a lunch for 20 elderly residents from neighbouring villages. Some of them had left their homes and were living with strangers and some had opted to stay in their own houses even though the water had started coming in. We knew that a nice meal and a dry afternoon wasn’t going to solve their problems but we hoped to give them an opportunity to meet up with their friends and to just relax and talk about what was going on. On the whole everybody was upbeat. Some had lost furniture and possessions but I think in a country such as ours most people know that insurance or the many charities will remedy that. There are of course items that can never be replaced. I got talking to one old man and I asked him if he had lost much. “Oh aye lass – not much left I’m afraid but I did manage to save this” he replied with a big smile on his face. In his hand was a photo of himself and his late wife on their wedding day. I had to pretend to find something urgent to do because I knew I would cry if I carried on talking to him. I guess he was one of the luckier ones.
The meal went down a treat and for a couple of hours at least everyone was warm and dry and well fed. I still had loads of home grown plums in my freezer so I opted to make an old favourite – plum crumble. I made a syrup with some red wine and spices to add to the plums and the smell of the crumbles cooking was heavenly. I did of course make an extra one for us to enjoy that night.
- 6 large purple plums, cut in half and stones removed
- 125ml red wine
- 1 tblsp Cointreau
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of ½ orange
- 4 tblsp caster sugar
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 150g plain flour
- 50g ground almonds
- 100g butter, cut into cubes
- 80g brown sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
- Place the prepared plums into an ovenproof dish (approx. 18cm x 25cm).
- Place the wine, Cointreau, orange zest, juice, caster sugar and spices into a frying pan and bring to the boil.
- Continue to boil for a few minutes until the sauce has reduced and turned syrupy.
- Remove the whole spices and pour the sauce over the plums.
- Using your fingers (or a food mixer) rub the butter into the flour and ground almonds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Mix in the sugar and a couple of drops of water.
- Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the plums and bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm with cream or custard.
The Co-operative Electrical is currently running a fabulous competition for bloggers to showcase their favourite winter warming dishes. Served warm out the oven this plum crumble is a real winter warming dish and definitely one of my favourites.