Nothing is quite as comforting as an apple crumble, and when you toss in a sumptuous helping of tart gooseberries, it elevates this dessert to a whole new plane. Our healthy rendition of gooseberry and apple crumble is vegan, gluten-free, and suprisingly as delicious as the OG. Dish it up warm with vanilla ice cream, yoghurt, or a fresh helping of double cream and thank us later.
Country Number 54: England
Both Nicola and I have parents hailing from England: my mother grew up on the tawny cliffs and wild moors of Dorset, and Nicola’s Mum and Dad grew up in Eastbourne and Birmingham respectively. We’ve also both spent a decent amount of time here: Nicola living out of a suitcase in London at her uncle’s for a while when travelling for a living was still a thing, and I lived in Bristol as a wee nipper. Both of us also return frequently to visit the various family members and loved ones that we have left behind. As such, we feel quite an affinity to this wee nation, and, believe it or not, to its food.
Whenever I touch down in Heathrow (or, God forbid, Luton or Gatwick), traipse out of the airport and pop onto whatever bus or train will take me to my destination, I feel an overwhelming sense of returning home. To be fair, the nostalgia is usually heightened by me blasting England Skies by Shake Shake Go on my headphones, but still… it’s nice to feel like I have a second home outside of Aotearoa.
History of English Cuisine
Well… I can’t pretend like England has a great reputation when it comes to its native cuisine*. Generally when one thinks of English food one thinks of overcooked, limp vegetables, rubbery tough meat, potatoes, black pudding, liver and onions, and no thought to flavouring or spice whatsoever.* To be honest though, such a reputation is not entirely fair. The English make truly bloody good pies, pasties and fish and chips. Additionally, its pub food in all its glorious forms is unbeatable, I am never one to turn down a full English breakfast, and its Sunday roast, Yorkshire pud and all, deserves the acclaim.
I would say, however, that one of my favourite parts of English cuisine is its puddings, cakes, and baked goods. Now, I’m not going to enter into the debate as to whether scones are of Scottish or Cornish origin, and I’m DEFINITELY not getting involved in the Devon cream tea vs Cornish cream tea debate. Instead, I simply doff my hat to the creators and perpetuators of this simple yet mind-blowingly delicious shneaky shnack. Honestly, if I could eat scones slathered in clotted cream and jam every day without having a heart attack at thirty I would. I really would. I will also do a lot for a good Victoria sponge, apple crumble hits right every time, bread and butter pudding is a glorious, wobbly delight, and like, who would have thought the English would come up with something as gastronomically ingenious as banoffee pie?
As there are so many sweet delights I really can get amongst in English cuisine, it was quite hard to choose between the various options available to make for England. However, my Mum and I were doing a road trip through the South Island of New Zealand over summer, and it was that glorious time of year when berries were in glorious excess. We had been frequently stopping at road-side stalls and berry farms to pick up fresh fruit, and at one point one of the stalls was selling fresh gooseberries.
Now, gooseberries don’t actually grow anywhere near Auckland, so, believe it or not, I had never tried these funny watermelon wannabees. Of course Nicola, growing up in arid Australia, hadn’t either. Gooseberries, however, are one of my Mum’s favourite fruits, and one of the things she misses most about England. As such, she bought me a big paper bag filled with gooseberries and packed me off back to our flat in Auckland with the instructions to top and tail them, stew them up with lemon juice and a bit of sugar, and serve in a crumble or with porridge. And we did just that.
* I should add a caveat that many of the English dishes are of uncertain British origin and have had Scottish, Welsh, and Irish influence (as well as various other countries around the world). Technically also we could have simply selected one dish for “British cuisine”, but we wanted to do a dish for all of Britain’s various parts so here we are.
**Sorry, that’s a bit unfair. The Brits have been using “curry powder” to make an unspecified Anglo-Indian curry since the eighteenth century.
Popular English Vegetarian Dishes
I’m just going to list some of my favourite English sweet treats here. You’re welcome:
- Cream tea – fluffy scones served warm and slathered with jam and clotted cream, and a good strong cup of tea.
- Gooseberry and apple crumble – stewed tart gooseberries and apples topped with a crumbled topping made of oats mixed with sugar and butter.
- Banoffee pie – a buttery biscuit base is topped with bananas, cream and thick caramel.
- Treacle tart – a flaky, buttery short-crust pastry base filled with a treacle filling made of golden syrup, lemon and cream.
- Bread and butter pudding – slices of stale bread are slathered with butter, laid up in a dish, raisins are tossed in, and then a vanilla, nutmeg-spiced custard is poured over, and the whole thing is baked.
Vegetarian rating of English Cuisine:
Making Healthy Gooseberry and Apple Crumble
This dish consists of stewing up the fruit first. You can simply cook it with the crumble but I find that stewing fruit first makes them much more succulent and gives them a lot more time for the flavours to release. Once the fruit is stewed, toss the crumble ingredients together. Place the fruit in an oven-proof dish, and top with crumble. Then you simply need to cook it until it’s juices are bubbling through and the crumble is golden-brown on top.
How to make Gooseberry and Apple Crumble
1. Stew apples first by putting them into a saucepan with the sugar, spices and vanilla essence. Cover with just enough water to cover the apples and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add in gooseberries, lemon juice and zest and cook for another 5 minutes. Drain most of the liquid and set aside (you can keep this juice to serve alongside if you wish).
2. Combine dry crumble ingredients. Add in wet ingredients, and mix well until combined. Pour stewed fruit into the bottom of a baking dish and then top with crumble.
3. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes in a oven preheated to 190˚C, until browned on top and thoroughly heated in the middle. Remove from oven and serve with yoghurt, cream or ice cream.
Ingredient notes for Gooseberry and Apple Crumble
- Gooseberries – if, like us, you live somewhere where gooseberries are not easily accessible, you can omit and substitute with more apples, or another fruit like feijoa or rhubarb.
- Treacle – substitute with golden or maple syrup if desired.
- Hazelnuts and almond meal – substitute with flour to make nut-free.
- Desiccated coconut – feel free to add some desiccated coconut if you are loco for the coco.
- Coconut sugar – substitute with various other types of non-liquid sugar.
Serving suggestions for Gooseberry and Apple Crumble
Serve hot with vanilla ice cream, a thick Greek yoghurt or heavy cream poured over.
Gooseberry & apple mixture:
- 3 apples, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 500 g gooseberries
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp treacle
- 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup yogurt, normal or non-dairy
Make gooseberry & apple mixture:
- Put diced apples in a saucepan with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla essence. Cover with water to just cover apples. Bring to a simmer and cook apples for 10 minutes.
- Add in gooseberries and lemon juice and zest and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Drain most of the liquid and set aside. You can keep this juice to serve alongside if you so desire.
- You can refrigerate the fruit at this point for up 24 hours if you want to prepare it in advance.
Make crumble topping:
- Preheat oven to 190˚C.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients including rolled oats, almond meal, chopped hazelnuts, cinnamon, salt and coconut sugar.
- Add in wet ingredients included treacle, coconut oil and yogurt, and mix well to combine.
- In a square baking dish, pour gooseberry and apple mixture, then top with crumble.
- Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, until browned on top and heated thoroughly in the middle.
- Remove from oven and serve with yogurt, cream or Icecream.
Other sweet dishes to try
- Tufahije Recipe: Walnut-Stuffed Poached Apples from Bosnia
- Vegan Coconut Tarts Recipe: A Belize Dessert
- Torrejas Recipe: Cinnamon French Toast from Andorra