The crisp, warming and versatile apple crumble we know and love today may seem decadent but its roots date back to incredibly humble origins. As the Second World War wreaked havoc worldwide plunging Britain into strict food rationing, housewives had to find increasingly innovative ways of creating substantial family meals.
With butter, flour and sugar in short supply, apple crumble became a means of providing a tasty dessert with minimal ingredients. The epitome of comfort food, our humble crumble is famous across the globe for oozing sumptuous, sweet and sticky satisfaction with every spoonful. Regardless of the season, there’s always space for a naughty but extremely nice dollop to round off even the most substantial meal. As apple crumble purists, we prefer minimal interference – just a cheeky sprinkle of spice, such as ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg is perfect. Come the spring and summer months, rich vanilla ice cream or an overly generous spoonful of double cream are the ideal bedfellows while, with the turn of the seasons, of course only lashings of steamy golden custard will do.
As with its crumble companion, our love affair with custard has been equally enduring. Conjuring up sweet, fuzzy nostalgia with every generous spoonful, the origins of custard can be traced back to the Romans. Allegedly, they were the first to appreciate the binding properties of eggs recognising that by simmering milk, eggs and honey in clay pots (topped off with a sprinkle of black pepper!), they could create a filling and nutritious dish that was tasty to boot. During the Middle Ages, popularity for the sweet sauce grew; custard tarts became very much the flavour of the time, perhaps shaping the name ‘custard’, derived from ‘crustade’, the French for a tart with a crust.
“The most famous custard powder of all, Bird’s, was invented by Alfred Bird in Birmingham, England in 1837 for his wife, who couldn’t eat eggs. He began marketing it across the UK in 1844 before, in 1947, Bird’s became part of General Foods.”
The perfect covering for a generous tumble of fresh fruit, or spooned over a rich sticky toffee pudding, custard can be enjoyed either hot or cold. Still, most people would agree that the winning combination of crisp, tangy apple crumble, topped with a generous serving of rich, decadent custard is hard to beat.