Apple and macadamia crumble

I’ve made this crumble recipe many times before – usually with walnuts, occasionally with almonds, and sometimes throwing in some mango along with the apple.

In Nairobi this week, I picked up a couple bags of organic macadamia nuts. One bite, and I realized I’d never eaten really good, fresh macadamias before. This topping, using some of the Kenyan macadamias, is absolutely the best.

  • 2 large cooking apples
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g butter, cold, plus a bit extra to rub over the baking dish
  • 60g macadamia nuts
  • 50g palm sugar, or substitute with any other sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Heat the over to 190 degrees C. Grease a pie dish or small casserole dish.

Add the cut up butter to the flour and rub in, using your fingertips. Sprinkle the rum over the apples and set aside while you get on with the crumble topping.

Chop the macadamia nuts roughly and add to the mixture.

Finally, add the palm sugar, also coarsely chopped, to the mix.

Doing this in a tropical climate, it’s important for the butter to be VERY cold and straight from the fridge. It tends to get soft and lumpy while you are rubbing it into the flour, so you need to work fast. If it gets too warm, it won’t work, and you should return the whole lot to the fridge to chill for a bit before resuming. Or, leave your air-con blasting away while you do it, if that’s an option. (I know…bad for the climate. Maybe just do the fridge thing.)

Put the apples in the baking dish, and top with the crumble. Sprinkle a little nutmeg powder over the top and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is a little brown.

I often use brown sugar in this recipe, which offsets the slight bitterness of the walnuts. This time around, I thought the brown sugar might be a bit overpowering with the macadamias, and used some Thai palm sugar instead. It turned out to be the right choice, pale and caramel-like with the smooth, buttery macadamias.

Palm sugar in Southeast Asia varies hugely, by the way. In Malaysia, it comes in dark, fudgy blocks, often melted down to syrup, added to sweeten a coconut filling, or poured over a dessert. It’s still my favourite kind.

Living in Cambodia, I learned to love the tan, leaf-wrapped cakes of local palm sugar. This had a more subtle flavour, often with an accompanying bitter note. The best, most complex flavours, seemed to come from Battambang in the northwest.

For this recipe, I chopped up some Thai palm sugar coarsely, from a small block – about the same coarseness as the macadamia nuts – and added them to the crumble mix. With some thick cream, it was perfect.

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