WARNING: This is a long post mainly about food blogging, food styling and food photography whilst abroad. If that's not what you came for, feel free to scroll down to the fresh, yummy and sunny vegan blackberry crumble recipe. I won't be offended ;).
As those of you who read the blog regularly know, I'm on a 6-week adventure this summer. My first stop gap was the beautiful island of Curaçao where I stayed for a week. Thereafter, my son and I continued our journey and headed to our second destination for the summer: Ecuador. Our first week was spend in Quito, the capital city where we stayed with numerous relatives and friends. It was a joy seeing my son run riot with his cousins, but I was starting to miss my time in the kitchen and the creative process of blogging.
During our second week in Ecuador, we moved further north to a small, ancient indigenous market town called Otavalo, which is where my husband is from and where we set up camp for 2 weeks. Throughout that period we stayed with my mother-in-law and for the first time during our travels I felt able to allow myself to dream of writing a blog post or two.
After a week in Ecuador my husband joined my son and I, at long last giving me the time and space to really get stuck into blogging again. (It might sound super geeky, but those of you who blog will totally understand that) it was so exciting to finally put my blogging hat back on and look for spots with the best lighting, think about prop styling and of course most importantly, put together a cracking recipe.
However, each one of these elements proved trickier than expected. In terms of natural light sources, conditions were very harsh because Otavalo sits so high up in the Andes (more than 2000m/6500f above sea level!) and consequently is so close to the sun. Additionally, being this near to the equator also meant that the way the light moved throughout the day and the angles at which it fell were rather different than what I'm used to in London. But luckily for last week's post I found a shady spot in my mother-in-law's stunning garden and for today's post I scouted out the rustic, concrete floor of my husband's Goddaughter's small, but perfectly formed bedroom. It's a rather dark space with the open bedroom door - which leads into a sort of petite courtyard - being its only source of natural daylight. But for food photography purposes it was simply perfect. As luck would have it, the day I shot these pictures the sky was rather overcast, which meant that the light was soft, diffused and beautifully atmospheric.
Now on to my second hurdle: prop styling. Sadly there were no fancy ceramic plates available or an array of vintage spoons which I usually reach for. Hence last week I had to get creative and ended up using my mother-in-law's wicker basket and old baking sheet as a backdrop as well as some flowers from her garden and ones that were left over from a Christening we attended the previous day. This week my mother-in-law kindly donated her make-shift cast iron skillet, a cute flower bowl and her day-to-day spoons, which I think fitted the mood of this post perfectly. Furthermore, I used the last of the flowers from the Christening to decorate the crumble plus an old wrinkly cloth and TA-DA styling sorted.
Last but not least I had to think of a fitting, seasonal, plant-based recipe which was harder to do than it sounds because half of the ingredients I normally use were nowhere to be found (cashew butter, vegan coconut yoghurt or einkorn flour anyone?). So I had to go back to basics, which is just as well as the local blackberries were ripe and ready and just begging me to buy them, so I did, together with some regular flour, oats (hooray for oats) and naughty sugar. You can't have a crumble without ice cream, right?! So we got a traditional hand-churned vegan sorbet (helado de paila) from a nearby ice cream parlour in guanabana flavour providing the perfect sweet balance to this gorgeous tart crumble.
My husband's aunt lend me a well-used electric oven (no temperature dial available. I know, I also didn't think baking without a set temperature was possible?!) and off I went. Please do forgive me if the crumble doesn't look quite as crisp and golden brown as it should do. I did my best and can assure you, this beautiful mess tastes deliciously naughty, is vegan and my utter pride and joy!
Thanks for reading everyone and hope you enjoy the recipe.
SIMPLE VEGAN BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE (V+, V, GF, NF, ChF)
IMPORTANT: Please check the tips at the end for substitutions and other suggestions.
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 – 45 minutes
Serves: 10 - 12
6 cups of (organic) blackberries
3/4 cup of sugar + plus an extra 1-2 tablespoons for the fruit (see tips for details)
1 cup of flour + an extra tablespoon for dusting (see tips for details)
1 cup of oats (see tips for gluten-free options)
½ – ¾ cup vegetable oil (see tips for details)
a pinch of salt
a handful of crushed (organic) almonds (optional)
Mix the blackberries with the 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and put in a large baking tray (as this makes a good sized crumble, about twice as much as shown in these pictures). Dust lightly with about a tablespoon of flour.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, oats, salt and ¾ of a cup of sugar. Feel free to add some crushed almonds into the mix as well, leaving some behind for later. Distribute the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit and pop the fruit crumble into the oven for 30-45 minutes (or until the crumble is golden brown) at about 200C/390F.
When done, remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining almonds on the crumble. Then serve warm with some (vegan) ice cream or sorbet. YUM!
Tip 1: I love how versatile this recipe is. You can use whatever fruit is seasonal and local to you and I betcha the crumble will turn out delicious. I have used apples and pears in the past and the crumble came out super yummy.
Tip 2: Not too keen on sugar? Use only ½ a cup, or very sweet fruit like pears and omit altogether. You can also try a sugar alternative such as xylitol.
Tip 3: You can make this crumble gluten-free by replacing the flour with gluten-free flour. I have also made this recipe before using spelt flour (not gluten-free) which was absolutely gorgeous.
Tip 4: Use gluten-free oats instead of regular oats if you are sensitive to gluten or replace the oats with millet flakes for another gluten-free option.
Tip 5: I used olive oil in this crumble, but you can also use rice bran oil or walnut oil if you've got it to hand. Melted coconut oil would work well too and give it an exotic twist.
Tip 6: To make this nut-free, just omit the nuts. Not keen on almonds? Just replace with walnuts or pecan nuts. They are really delicious in this crumble too.
Looking for more baking ideas? Why not try my gluten-free apple and parsnip cake or my pretty vegan pear cake?