The shops have started selling British strawberries, and the sight of those fat berries and their sweet smell is more than enticing. They are delicious eaten straight from the carton, or halved and glazed with vanilla bean paste, but today it is raining, and so cold outside that we have lit the fire, and a hot pudding is justified.
I used to think it a waste to use fresh strawberries for a crumble, and previously had only used frozen (as pictured), but the better the fruit, the better your crumble will be. That said, these desserts are an excellent way to revive any batches of strawberries that are less than perfect or flavourful.


Red Wine Poached Strawberries with Vanilla and Black Pepper

250ml red wine
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 pod, split and scraped
black pepper (I know, I was initially dubious too, but trust me – it really is amazing)
strawberries, hulled but not halved
mascarpone, mixed with vanilla seeds and a little sugar, to serve

Dissolve the sugar in the wine with the vanilla. Add the fruit and a good grinding of black pepper and simmer until they are soft. Remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon and reduce the wine syrup to desired consistency before adding the fruit back in. Taste and add more pepper if necessary – it should provide some heat. Serve with the mascarpone, or anything else sticky and creamy.


Strawberry Almond Crumble

100g butter
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour
100g porridge oats
strawberries, fresh or frozen, whole or halved
caster sugar
vanilla bean paste
flaked almonds

Mix the strawberries with vanilla bean paste and some caster sugar – taste the fruit for sweetness. The more sugar you add, the more jammy your crumble will be.
Rub the butter into the flour, then mix in the sugar and oats. (I have tried this using ground almonds, but find that they produce a very soft topping more like a cake, even when oats are added and the oven temperature has been increased to crisp the top.) Cover the fruit with the crumble, leaving it loose in texture and not pressing it down.
Bake at about 180°C until the top looks slightly golden coloured and there are sticky puddles of vanilla strawberry goop at the edges. Toast the flaked almonds in the oven and sprinkle on top. (You can mix the flaked almonds into the crumble before baking, as I have done in the picture, but their flavour is less pronounced and they lose their crunch.)
Allow to cool (at least a bit!) slightly and serve with warm custard – I have a recipe for that here: https://bakingvet.com/2014/11/29/bramble-and-apple-pie-with-vanilla-custard/