Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Redwall-inspired Blackberry-Apple Crumble

Tasty literary-inspired crumble

This is a post I have been meaning to write since February.
Brian Jacques, author of the beloved Redwall series of children's books, passed away on February 5th of this year. I found out shortly thereafter, and was saddened by the news. Not only did I love those books (and still do) but Mr. Jacques seemed like a genuinely lovely and kind man. To quote Wikipedia, “His book Redwall was written for his 'special friends', the children of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind, whom he first met them when he delivered to the school as a milkman. He began to spend time with the children, and eventually began to write stories for them. This accounts for the very descriptive style of the novel and the ones to follow.” That is beautiful.

My copies of these books are "well-loved."
I remember that I posted a status commemorating him on Facebook, and many people commented on it expressing their sadness, but they also expressed a joy in reminiscing about reading the Redwall books in their childhood.
At school the next day, several people who had read my status talked to me about Redwall and Mr. Jacques' passing. It was interesting that everyone seemed to mention how reading any given Redwall book made them very hungry. Every book in the series contains many detailed descriptions about the food the animals of Redwall Abbey consume; from grand feasts to picnics to teatime.

The introduction of The Redwall Cookbook offers explanation for the detail Mr. Jacques went into about food.
...It really annoyed me [in books] when I'd come to a passage where somebody ate a marvelous feast. There never seemed to be any description of it. Afterward, the hero would ride off on his white stallion, thanking the King for the wonderful dinner. Wait! What did it taste like? What did it look like? How was it made? Did he really enjoy it? Questions that to even my young mind required much answering. That is why the fare at Redwall Abbey is featured so prominently— I'm trying to put things right!”

My boss at school also heard the sad news that week, and because we are both big fans of the books, she obtained The Redwall Cookbook from the library, and cooked several dishes from it, which she brought to school, then inviting me and other workers to partake in a feast of sorts. It was fun, and a little peculiar, and it struck me that this was the perfect way to remember Mr. Jacques: by telling stories while eating good food.

So in the spirit of remembrance, I am going to be posting a series of Redwall-inspired foods, taken from the books themselves wherever possible. Today's is taken from Mossflower, where the woodlanders eat a meal at Brockhall, including a blackberry-apple crumble. This is what I imagine it might be like.

Blackberry-Apple Crumble
Crumb topping:
½ c wheat flour
½ c rolled oats
¼ c brown sugar
1 stick of butter

3 chopped apples
12 oz blackberries
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp granulated sugar

Toss together the chopped apples, cornstarch, and granulated sugar. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Put apples into a baking dish, and mix in blackberries. (Alternatively, if you don't care if your berries get somewhat squished, mix apples and berries together at the beginning of this step.)
Meanwhile, blend together oats, flour, sugar, and cold butter with a pastry blender until the mixture forms pea-sized crumbs. Chill in the fridge for ~10 minutes.
Spread the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake at 375 for ~45 minutes.

This is most of what you'll need.
Chopped apples tossed in sugar and cornstarch. I didn't put the berries in yet because I wanted them to remain intact. I realize that this is irrational.

Crumb topping.

Crumbles are homely looking, but tasty.

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