A dessert to cheer up any St Patrick’s Day parade drowned rats

Vanessa Greenwood: This fruit cobbler is a quick and easy after-supper treat

Fruit cobbler. Photograph: Harry Weir

Fruit cobbler. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

Despite the evenings stretching all too slowly, lots more outdoor activities are scheduled from March onwards which is why the sudden snowfall across the country at the beginning of this month is met with mixed feelings (glee for many who expected a snow day or who had a sled on standby!).

As the rain dramatically turned to sleet, followed by snow, I was reminded of the siege mentality that ensued only 12 months before. Home comforts and warm puddings are what we all crave in foul weather. This cobbler is fit to cheer up any drowned rats beset by the annual St Patrick’s Day parade showers.

The term cobbler in dessert speak is not well known on this side of the Atlantic (unless, you are an internet savvy food hound that clocks far too much time perusing recipe sites – mea culpa). Cobblers are popular home fare in the US, considered much like pies, often made with a double pie crust. To us, they resemble hearty crumbles, but the crumbly topping is primarily biscuit-like, rarely containing oats or nuts.

The common element is that all cobblers involve fruit, butter, sugar and flour. The shortbread like biscuit topping resembles small dumplings. This golden crust is wonderfully rustic, cobbled rather than smooth, allowing the filling to bubble through like hot lava.

You can bake cobblers with all types of fruit. To make fruit stretch further there is lots of scope to create delicious fruit combinations. Remember those harsh weather sieges, where trips to the shops were met with warnings?

When a quick and easy after-supper treat is called for, peach cobbler is just the ticket. A tin of peaches is a handy staple in a well stocked store cupboard and sliced peaches add texture to this pudding. I always keep frozen berries in the freezer too.

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Happily, on the way to this recipe photoshoot, I spotted bulging punnets of fragrant blackberries on sale which were hard to resist. Up to that point, the recipe contained blueberries.

Both options provide a hot dessert with great flavour, firm texture and – thanks to the peaches - an enthusiastic burst of colour. As the months ahead yield bountiful harvests of soft fruits, followed by stone fruits, you can look forward to making this time and time again. Even a small portion shrieks comfort blankie!

FRUIT COBBLER

Serves six

Ingredients
For the topping
125g plain flour
25g cornflour
Pinch salt
75g caster sugar, sieved
125g cold butter, diced small

For the filling
30g plain flour
75g sugar
½tsp nutmeg (or other spice)
1 egg
1 tin (246g) peach slices, drained
250g blackberries (or blueberries)
Whipped cream, ice cream or custard, to serve

Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan. Grease a deep pie dish (or other ovenproof dish) with butter.

First make the biscuit cobbler topping. In a large wide mixing bowl, mix together the flour, cornflour, salt and sugar. Add the chilled butter, rubbing it into the dry ingredients using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside, refrigerate.

For the filling, in a mixing bowl place the 30g flour, 75g sugar and nutmeg. Add the egg and use a wooden spoon, stirring vigorously to combine the ingredients to a smooth batter. Stir in the peach slices until coated with batter. Lastly fold in the blackberries, then transfer the fruit filling into a pie dish.

Then, using your hand, create small dough balls and drop them randomly over the top of the fruit, leaving gaps between them.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the crust turns golden in colour and the filling starts to bubble up through the gaps. Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside for 2-3 minutes to cool slightly.

Serve hot with freshly whipped cream, ice-cream or custard.

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