This week there’s been yet another impediment to our 2015 home improvement plan - namely a mahussive wasp nest measuring at least 18 to 20 inches across. Not that we got close enough to actually measure it, but it is significantly bigger than my largest sized hat box that holds the most glamorous and ostentatious hat I possess (thanks Philip Tracey!).
I was first alerted to our yellow-jacketed uninvited house guests when I was up until the early hours of the morning one day last week doing a food-blogger’s night shift. At first I thought that the incessant tapping at the window were moths trying to get to the light. Then I thought it must be raining. Finally, when I got up to investigate, I saw the outside of the window pane was teeming with a hundred wasps or more. Quite scary, since I never knew that wasps were nocturnal or even attracted to the light. I’d sort of hoped that as we have a fruiting damson tree adjacent to the office window, they were looking for something sweet to eat. In retrospect, I think they were simply on their flight path to and from the nest, which we later discovered in our loft.
Because the loft door has to be left open for re-decoration, during which time the wasps can merrily make their way into our home, we had to cancel the decorator and call in pest control. But wait. You can’t kick up a fuss about the decline in the bee population and then kill off a whole nest worth of wasps can you? A rhetorical question because no, we can’t. We’ve decided it would be just as an unethical to kill off our resident wasps as it is to kill bees. In spite of their bad press (I don’t think they’re nearly as aggressive as a human being flailing around in a state of panic because they’re frightened of being stung), wasps really do serve a useful ecological function - they pollinate flowers and crops and are the natural predator of many other insect pests e.g. they eat caterpillars that would otherwise destroy food crops and keep the fly population down by feeding them to their young. Good job!
Nevertheless, it would be rude to risk them stinging our decorator, so the work has had to be put on hold until we can figure out how to construct a no-fly zone by creating a wasp-proof curtain to contain them on their side of the attic. In a few more weeks, when the weather turns colder, the worker wasps will die off naturally and then the hive becomes obsolete. And the good news is, wasps are fiercely territorial. This means they will never re-colonise an old nest or build a new nest anywhere near the site of an old one. Magic! Our magnificent wasp nest will be left in situ as a natural deterrent to future wasps, proving that nature takes care of itself if only humans will live and let live.
Like humans, wasps have a sweet tooth and they really love ripe fruit and all things sugary, which is probably why late summer and autumn - the ‘‘season of mists and fruitfulness” - is when they become more noticeable. There’s definitely something in the air, because on a recent sortie to our local greengrocer my man came back with some locally-grown, outrageously plump, sweet, juicy blackberries that he felt compelled to purchase because they were so big, black and beautiful. He had no idea what I would do with them, but on an unusually cold day in early September nothing shouted ‘comfort’ at me more than the prospect of a glorious Apple & Blackberry Crumble with lashings of cream.
Blackberries have a wonderful affinity with apples (so too do raspberries - see notes below) but a classic crumble is normally off-limits for anyone who doesn’t eat grains and doesn’t want a dessert laden with sugar. If this is you, rejoice because gloriously comforting fruit crumble is now back on the menu with this delicious, easy-to-make, no-grain, low sugar recipe.
As an advocate for eating Primal (albeit primarily vegetarian), I’ve found tiger nut flour is a brilliantly conceived ingredient that just keeps on giving. Quickly whizzed in a blender with grass-fed butter and very little coconut palm sugar, plus chopped pecans for crunch, this Apple & Blackberry Crumble is as good to eat as any I can remember from my childhood. For a moment of happiness, just dive in with a spoon.
Apple and Blackberry Crumble (Serves 4)
100g tiger nut flour
50g cold organic butter, cut into pieces
15g organic coconut palm sugar
30g raw pecans, finely chopped
4 decent-sized organic eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used Braeburn but Cox’s or Granny Smith’s would be good too)
40ml fresh orange juice (about ½ orange, juiced)
Pre-heat the oven to 180℃ / 350℉ / Gas mark 4
Put the sliced apples and orange juice into a medium saucepan, cover the pan and cook over a moderate heat for about 8 minutes, or until the apples are soft but not mushy. If there is any juice left in the bottom of the pan at the end to the cooking time, take the pan lid off, turn up the heat and continue cooking for a minute or so more until there is no liquid left.
Tip the apples into an ovenproof dish (I used an oval Pyrex dish measuring 6.5 cm x 9cm) then arrange the whole blackberries on top of the apples in a single layer.
Put the tiger nut flour, butter and palm sugar into the bowl of a food processor and ‘pulse’ several times over until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Tip into a medium size bowl and add the chopped pecans.
Spoon the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit. Place the dish on a baking tray and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes.
Take out of the oven and allow the crumble to stand for 5 minutes before serving with a generous spoonful of clotted or double cream.
Although this is a quick and easy dessert to make, you can skip the apple ‘prep’ altogether by substituting 350g fresh raspberries for eating apples. Just make sure they’re naturally sweet-tasting so you don’t need to add any other sweetener. Simply layer up your oven-proof dish with raw whole raspberries and blackberries before spooning over the crumble mixture and baking at 180℃ for 25 minutes.
To make the crumble mixture without a food processor, use the rubbing-in method. Using your fingertips and thumbs, take small amounts of the cold butter and tiger nut flour mixture and rub them together, from little finger to first finger. Raise your hands above the surface so they are not warming the rest of the mixture. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add the coconut palm sugar (and cinnamon, if using - see note below) and mix together with a fork before spooning on top of the fruit.
If you like the spicy, sweetness of ground cinnamon, a teaspoon added to the crumble mixture before baking will complement the apple in Apple & Blackberry Crumble beautifully.
Carbohydrate 39g Protein 3g - per serving (Apple and Blackberry)
Carbohydrate 29g Protein 3g - per serving (Raspberry and Blackberry)