6 Jun 2012

Pasta puttanesca + boozy apple crumble

I hope today is not like yesterday, and the day before: when the light - or rather lack of - was the same no matter what the hour. When mid-morning was indistinguishable from midday, which blurred miserably into mid-afternoon. To get me thru the unchanging greyness of it all, I plotted my dinner.

Pasta with puttanesca sauce, my way. Which meant taking the premise of 'slut's pasta' - tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna, some garlic - and adding chilli flakes for heat (to thaw my toes). I used homemade pasta sauce - made in the summer and squirrelled away in my gorgeous retro chest freezer (perhaps 50 years old, maybe more) that hums away in the garage - one of the best presents my parents have ever given me! Anyway, back to the sauce: dark ruby red, flecked orange with olive oil, just what I needed to give colour to the day.

I also squished in half a tin of cannelini beans - while not in any recipe I've seen, I'm sure those working girls had a tin of beans in their pantry alongside the Sirena. And, then just because I felt like it, some steamed brocolli and peas. I'm sure my Italian friend D would be horrified at these additions - that's not a proper puttanesca! Heresy! - but hey, it's my kitchen. Puttanas need their greens, too.

Some S&P, and some chewy pasta (the same I used in my mac cheese) - a comforting but not heavy dinner. I made so much after I served up that I have enough for my dinner again tonight, and enough to squirrel away into the chest freezer for another couple of meals.

While I prepared dinner, I had my pudding course toasting away in the oven.

The night before I had made some boozy apples. The plan was for apple tart, but I ran out of energy and time, and decided that what I really wanted anyway was a light, crisp, oaty crumble topping. So I made the boozy apples - I love saying 'boozy apples'! - a lightly caramelised concoction of apple wedges softened in brown sugar, water and sherry. Don't wrinkle your nose up at sherry until you've tried it in a dessert like this, where it lends a beautiful, mellow quality to the fruit. But drink it? No way.

Once softened, I piled them into a shallow pie dish and let the flavours deepen overnight while I pondered the crumble. So last night, all I had to do was mix up a crumble that resembled muesli: rolled oats, flaked almonds, a little coconut, and the tiniest amount of spice - much less than I usually use, but I didn't want the crumble competing with the mellow roundness of the cherried apples.

The crumble was a fidget with my 'Nigella's crumble' - that's what I have written on the page; I have no idea of the precise providence. I recalled from last winter that this could be a bit biscuit-like, not what I was after this time.  So I drastically reduced the butter and flour, allowing the oats and flaked almonds to become the focus. The final result was quite loose - if you want something more solid, I guess work your way back to the original butter and flour quantities. But I liked this 'loose' topping. Just enough toasty crispness to complement rather than dominate those rich, translucent, almost jelly-soft apples beneath.

I had sour cream on the side. And seconds.

Boozy apples
Use in a crumble, or a pie or tart, or just enjoy by itself. I don't know where I got this recipe from.
  • Peel, core and cut into wedges 6 to 8 apples.
  • Place 25 grams each of white and light brown sugar (this adds up to a quarter cup, so do half and half in that) into a heavy pan/pot with 3 tablespns water. Cook till sugar dissolved, then add the apples and 1 tablespn sherry.
  • Half-cover, get a light simmer going, and cook til the apples tender and liquid reduced (this took me about half an hour).
  • Then combine 1 tablespn sherry, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and 1 teaspn cornflour. Add this to the apples and stir around til combined.
  • It's now ready to use.
Nigella's crumble (and mine)
I give you the original recipe and, where different, my quantity in brackets. Either this pie dish was smaller than ones I have previously used, or I am becoming more moderate in my old age, but I only used about half this. The remainder too went into the freezer for another day.
  • 125 grams butter, melted (50 grams)
  • 60 grams rolled oats
  • 40 grams flaked almonds
  • 30 grams coconut (20 grams)
  • 70 grams plainflour (50 grams)
  • 1 teaspn each cinnamon and mixed spice (1/4 teaspn each)
  • 75 grams light brown sugar (50 grams)
  • Combine these, sprinkle over your fruit, and cook at 180 until as brown as you like - about 25 minutes at least for me.


  1. Anonymous06 June, 2012

    Brocolli and peas in puttanesca! Noooooooooooooooooooo! That said beautifully written as always and save me some of the crumble. D

  2. Anonymous11 June, 2012

    What kind of apples did you use? M

    1. I used UFAs - unidentified father's apples :-) the recipe specified "dessert apples", but i used a mixed bunch, the last of dad's box. this meant i had a mix of textures - firm and fluffy - so quite nice. use whatever you like, really.

    2. i'mnot sure if this reply is appearing:

      I used UFAs - unidentified father's apples :-) the original recipe specified dessert apples, but you could use anything, as i did. i mix of apples gave a mix of textures - some still firmish, some fluffy - and it was rather pleasing.

  3. Hahaha...I never really gave much thought to the name. Hilarious!

    I have the morning off and thought I would treat myself to one of your recipes.

    First, I was stuck on your cakes - OMG! I am going to marry the lemon butter bundt cake. That baby's all mine.

    Then I find this gorgeous recipe that suits me down to the ground. I can't wait for the abundance of tomatoes to make my fresh sauces.

    Tonno pasta is a favourite as is Pasta Fagioli. I think they would work perfectly together. Even with the greens. :)

    And just out of interest, I always toss my tuna in at the last minute. Is it just me or can you taste the difference if overcooked?

    A retro fridge...lucky girl!

  4. Hi SB, the lemon butter cake is a goody - i should make it again!
    and yes fresh tomotoes make the best pasta sauces - over-ripe and luscious - but i have found a brand of tinend tomatoes that are super-rich and make the best sauces. they're italian, of course! i made a fresh batch of sauce on the weekend, to last me the next month or so, and i should make a puttanesca with it tonight. thanks for the idea!
    i think overcooked tuna is so horribly dry, i agre with you about a last-minute toss :-)


Word-verification is on, as the robot-spammers are loving my tuna past bake too much at the moment! I hope you understand - and I hope you'll still leave a comment at Dig In. I love hearing your thoughts, knowing someone is reading, and will always reply. Unless you're a robot-spammer.