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Savory apple crumble with squash, pork and rosemary

Posted Mar 02 2012 7:23pm

by Danielle Charles

Recently I was watching a TED talk about longevity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those who have some insane obsession with living forever. But I am curious about why it is that certain cultures tend to live longer than others. Or more specifically, I should say, I’m interested in how they tend to live better. Because, when it comes down it, these cultures not only tend to have longer lives, but higher quality lives as well.

Quality of life – it’s a concept that we have trouble grasping here in the West, isn’t it?  I remember once a man coming up to me at a party after learning that I’d been studying herbalism and natural health. He nudged me with his drink, spilling some on my shoes, and said,  ”You can’t live forever, you know.” When I asked him to explain what he meant, he gave me a knowing wink and said, “Why waste your time on salads and the like just to live a few years longer. Why not enjoy yourself a little before you go!” He held his drink up to make it clear to me just what kind of enjoyments he was endorsing, and wandered off to talk to someone who was not eating a salad.

But what he failed to grasp, and what a lot of people tend to misunderstand – even some who value health themselves – is that being healthy is actually about enjoying yourself. It just involves enjoyment of a deeper and more fulfilling nature than the more distracting sorts of surface enjoyments we tend to value in our modern-day. And despite what this particular man might have thought, being truly healthy has very little to do with pro-longing life either (that just tends to be an added perk).  Health is about valuing the life in front of you. About tending it with the loving care that is given to things that really matter. About celebrating each day in that deep and reverent way that makes your spirit sing and your time sacred.

I was thinking of all of this as I put together this crumble for dinner the other night, inspired by a recipe in Beatrice Peltre’s new cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande, of the same name as her wonderful blog. Her cookbook and her recipes are a true testament of the inspiring, celebratory and deeply gratifying nature that health should embody. They are a celebration of season, of the wisdom of cultural traditions, of simplicity, and of the amazing and profound flavors that come from fresh, wholesome, quality ingredients. It’s the sort of cooking that I love – the happy marriage of wholesomeness and deliciousness.

Because it was cold and snowy, I immediately gravitated towards the idea of a savory crumble (how have I never thought of this before?!?) and because there are only so many more weeks left of squashes and apples, I wanted to incorporate them in too. The crumble is wheat free – as many of her recipes are, but the focus is more on the inclusion of other more nutritious whole grain flours, and less on the absence of wheat, which I like. This is the recipe that was born from it, and as I sat down and ate it with the snow falling gently down outside, quality of life became more than just an esoteric concept. I can’t be sure if eating it added a month or a year to my life, but I can be sure that it added a good deal of joy and contentment to my day. And that is what health is really about.

This recipe can easily omit the pork if you are vegetarian – just add an extra 1/4 cup of grated cheddar. You can make it in 4 individual ramekins or make it one casserole dish, depending on your preference.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 lbs of organic, pasture raised ground pork (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces (I leave the peel on)
  • 1 small kabocha squash (red kuri or butternut would also be good), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • a handful of fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from the stems and minced + 4 whole sprigs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar (I used Dubliner Cheddar)

For the crumble:

  • 1/3 cup amaranth or millet flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 6 tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When its had a chance to warm up, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the pork and the allspice, and stir occasionally until the pork has begun to brown and is pretty much cooked – about 5 minutes. Add the apple, squash, garlic, ginger and rosemary and let cook for about 10 minutes, until the apples begin to soften and caramelize in places. Add the vegetable stock and cider along with the additional rosemary sprigs, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for a further 30 minutes.

While the filling is simmering away, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and make your crumble topping. Place the flours, nuts and seeds, rosemary and a generous pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl. Add the cheddar and the butter, cut into small cubes, and work it into the flour with your fingertips, until you have a nice pebbly dough with no pebbles bigger than the size of a pea.

Once the vegetable and pork mixture has finished simmering away, take off the heat and stir through the cheddar. Portion the filling into 4 greased oven proof dishes or ramekins or into a casserole dish. Scatter the crumble mixture over the top, and place in the oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top. Serve with a simple green salad.

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