Good habits, good things (including apple crumble)

I moved house about six weeks ago. I moved across the river, back to the south side of the city, back to the side of the river I grew up on. It’s taking me a lot of adjustment. A lot about it is great – it’s the most convenient location I’ve ever lived in in Australia, it’s the first time I’m living on my own all proper and official-like (as in renting through a real estate agent etc), I’m living with a good friend. I’m feeling all grown up, and it’s weird – I bought a washing machine! But it’s making me realise how much a creature of habit I am. Moving disrupted many of the good habits I’d been building up, and I’m finding it difficult to get everything going the way I’d like again. My sleep patterns are still disrupted, my working abilities were impacted for much longer than they should have been, and I still have a worrying amount of unpacked boxes in the garage, a disorganised kitchen, and am missing at least one piece of essential furniture.

Between all this and the fact that, having graduated last year, I need to start a new big adventure, I’ve been finding it difficult to settle into new routines and move on to exciting new things. But all the topsy-turvyness has made me notice and appreciate some of the good things in my life that are keeping me happy and helping me sort things out. Firstly, spending time with my family and friends. Playing games with my brother, talking to my parents, lunchtimes at uni, morning teas and outings with my dear old friends, chatty fun knitting times. Good times, good people, to be appreciated.

Cauldron cardi

Craft is what relaxes me. I’m knitting myself a cropped cardigan. From yarn I spun, making up the pattern as I go along. It’s no-stress knitting, no deadline, no pattern. The colours and the texture make me happy. I’m spinning a new yarn as well, which is pure meditation. And I have a super secret project I’ve started for my Stitch ‘n’ Bitch’s Xmas in July swap, which is good fun!

Another thing that I’ve been appreciating taking the time to do of late is reading. I just finished Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. I am in the process of writing a review of it, so more on that later!

The last couple of weekends I’ve been making an effort to get to the West End markets on Saturday mornings, even if I only have time for a quick trip. It’s so much fun! The stalls are arranged in a long line, curving around the path of the park. The first half is mostly produce and other foodstuffs, the second half is mostly clothing and handmade and vintage goods, with more food mixed in. At the halfway point is the Gypsy coffee cart, and so my market mornings consist of me walking through the first half planning what food to buy, stopping to get an amazingly spiced coffee or hot chocolate, browsing through the pretties in the second half while I drink, and going back through the produce and deli stalls on my way out and back to the bus stop. From my new place it only takes half an hour to get to the markets – fifteen minutes on the bus and fifteen minutes on foot. It’s a great start to the weekend!

Market finds

This weekend I only was able to spend a short time at the markets, but I found a couple of treats: a pretty vintage plate that’s just begging to be loaded up with shortbread and biscuits; artisan chorizo (one chicken, one hot Spanish) from an incredible stall I haven’t seen before and forgot to get the name of. The chicken chorizo went in last night’s dinner. I’ve been making a lot of soups lately – they’re easy, tasty, filling, warm, and use root vegetables that last well and I’m trying to get to know better. The chorizo may have cost me $5, but the rest of the soup ingredients can’t have cost me more than $1 or $1.50, not including the chicken carcass from Saturday’s roast that I saved to make broth with. I saw a bread recipe in the morning, and it was such perfect timing that I used it to make lovely fluffy rolls to go with the soup. It made three very generous servings of soup and rolls (even though I halved the bread recipe) – in fact, as I sit here staring at the amount of soup I’ve reheated for my lunch, I think I definitely should have divided it into four.

Cooking is something I love to do. It’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s focusing and calming. And best of all, at the end you have something delicious to enjoy! I’ve found in the last six weeks that it was getting back into the habit of cooking and eating well that started the process of feeling better and being able to sort other things out. It’s something I’ve really noticed in the past, as well – especially when I was travelling and when I was living in Montreal – take the time to cook well and eat well and you’ll have more time and energy for the world around you.

And so, I’ll leave you with another thing I’ve cooked this weekend: the most amazing apple crumble I’ve made since Montreal. When I was in Montreal, especially after going apple-picking with my flatmate, I made an awful lot of apple crumbles. I experimented with different topping proportions, different fruit mixes, etc. I usually made one serve at a time, baked in the bowl, or sometimes chopped and mix up a larger amount of fruit and kept it in the fridge, taking portions of it whenever I needed some baked apple goodness. Baked apples are one of the best things in the world, I do believe. Soft and delicious and warm and comforting. Last week I impulse-bought a stick of rhubarb and some figs at the markets, and so at the end of the week I found myself with rhubarb, the last of the figs, overripe and in need of eating, and an apple crying out to be baked with. I chopped them all up, mixed in lemon juice, and baked a third of it with a simple flour-oats-butter-sugar-cardamom topping. It was alright, but where straight apple crumble can get away with not having sugar mixed in with the fruit, it seems apple-rhubarb crumble really can’t. Fortunately, 2/3 of the fruit mix remained.

Here’s what I came up with today. It was pretty amazing, if I say so myself!

(I couldn’t stop eating it long enough to take a proper picture.)

Filling:

  • apple (Granny Smith) – approx 1/3 of a medium-large apple
  • rhubarb – approx 1/3 of a stick
  • fig – approx 1
  • lemon juice
  • brown sugar
  • nutmeg

Crumble:

  • flour (wholemeal)
  • brown sugar
  • rolled oats
  • butter
  • nutmeg
  • almonds – small handful, roughly chopped

I didn’t measure any of the crumble components. I usually go pretty light on the topping – I just make enough to almost cover the fruit when lightly scattered over the bowl. Mix the flour, sugar, oats & nutmeg, then add small bits of butter and rub in until the mix clumps together. Scatter over fruit mix, then scatter the almonds on top. Bake at 180 C until toasty brown on top and you can see the fruit has caramelised.

The fruit blend came out amazing this time – the added sugar (and a longer cooking time) counteracted the sourness of the rhubarb, and it all blended together wonderfully. The toasted almonds made it extra delightful. In Montreal I learned that the best crumbles always have at least two fruits in them (if you have really amazing apples, the lemon juice is enough), and now I’ve discovered that nuts are another essential part of the crumble experience.

Enjoy : )