Making apple crumble is like taking a dance class. Their tables are arranged all around me and I dance about in the middle giving instructions and spot dems. A spot dem means I use their ingredients rather than my own to show the techniques for the recipe and they happen when I can’t afford my own ingredients or I’ve been out too late to go to the shops.
‘OK, class. We’re making apple crumble using the rubbing in method which is a very important skill.’
Bert has arisen from his slump on the formica table and he’s looking perky.
‘Sieve the flour and sugar into your mixing bowl, rub in the margarine till it looks like breadcrumbs then twist and shake the bowl to find lumps.’
I lift Len’s floury sugar into the air, let it drop into the bowl and squeeze in chunks of margarine with my fingertips.
‘What is this method called, class?’
‘Rubbing in Miss.’
‘Miss, you said it’s a very important skill so do you need to practice?’
It’s Bert and from the sniggers he’s not thinking of cooking. Cookery recipes are littered with rude words and my trick is a scowl to those in the know then a speed up so the innocents don’t catch on and claim my lesson has taught them swear words.
‘Alright, let’s get on. Barry, lift then squeeze! Don’t squash it into a lump.’
Barry is fat and likes his food and he doesn’t like it when I do spot dems as it means I won’t offer him my demonstration dish as a swap for his help in clearing up.
Flour and sugar dust floats in the air.
‘How do we know when it is like breadcrumbs, class?’
They chorus the answer.
‘Twist and Shake.’ Just like Chubby Checker!
The class lifts their mixing bowls, twists their hips and shakes any lumps of fat to the top. They wait for my approving inspection as I dance round the tables.
‘Perfect Janice!’ Girls are dainty with cool hands. Boys have hot hands which can quickly squeeze the crumble into a fatty ball.
My Twist and Shake routine is used for a myriad of fatty, floury recipes and we must progress through the skills of combining the ingredients FOR THE EXAM – crumble, shortcrust pastry, rock cakes, flaky and rough puff. Deep down I think it’s a way of using cheap ingredients to make high fat, sugary cakes and pastries to fill us up. The British diet and cookery lessons will have to change.
Let’s get this lesson nailed. They peel, core and slice a cooking apple into a small enamel dish, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon then top with the light, crumbly crumble which bakes to a golden crunchiness. The room fills with nourishing baking smells and I wish I had a demonstration dish for my supper.
‘We’ve mastered one of the basic skills so we can move on. What’s the method called?’
‘Rubbing in Miss.’ Some smirk at the answer but most are just pleased to take this tasty pudding home.