Reducing food waste: store cupboard crumble (+ ideas to use up old fruit)

With the current lockdowns and restrictions on movements, I’ve been rethinking how I use my (rather small) freezer. Now that I really need to optimise the space, I’m removing and using up some of the less useful items that take up space (a few random sticks of rhubarb, and a jar of stock) and filling it up with more useful items – ideally meals, or parts of meals.

One of the things I find really handy to keep in the freezer is crumble topping. Whenever I make crumble I always double the topping, and freeze half. (After all, making double – or triple – the quantity creates exactly the same amount of mess and washing up, but twice the food, and I’m all for that.)

It means down the track, when I discover some sad fruit in the fruit bowl, or a glut of something that I want to use up, I can grab the topping outta the freezer, and voila – almost instant crumble.

Growing up, the crumble I ate was made of refined white flour, refined white sugar, and butter. These days I prefer to make my crumble a little bit healthier.

And as long as you follow the rule of some sweetness, some crunch and some fat, it’s a pretty great idea for using up random ingredients from the pantry.

Making crumble topping

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup ground almonds (you could replace this with plain flour – wouldn’t be as tasty but kinder on your wallet. Other options are oat flour, rice flour, buckwheat flour)
  • 1/3 cup solid sugar (I like rapadura sugar, but any white or brown sugar that you have is fine)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup nuts/seeds (use what you have: chopped almonds, mixed nuts, hazelnuts or pecans, shredded coconut or coconut flakes, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, even buckwheat kernels will all work great)
  • Pinch of salt

(A note if you’d prefer to use butter instead of coconut oil: the traditional way of making crumble is using cubes of cold butter, and rubbing into the flour to make ‘crumbs’. But my guess is, if you’re using chunky ingredients like oats rather than just plain flour, you can just pour melted butter in – it’s the same consistency as melted coconut oil.)

Method:

Mix all the dry ingredients into a bowl, pour melted coconut oil on top, and mix well.

Whatever you’re not using straightaway, pop in a container (I use a glass jar) and store in the freezer. If you don’t have space the fridge is fine. I’d keep in the fridge for a month or two, and the freezer for three to six months.

Reducing food waste: using old fruit for crumble

Crumble is the perfect way to use up old fruit. Apples that have gone floury, pears that have started to go squishy, stone fruit that’s gone wrinkly, blackberries or mulberries that have been sitting in the freezer for months – they are all perfect for crumble.

If you don’t have enough fruit to make a crumble, you can simply chop and freeze what you have until you’ve got enough. Or, you could just make a one person version.

Tropical fruit like bananas and mango will work too. I’ve never seen a crumble for citrus, but I’d love to try 50/50 with orange and rhubarb, for sure.

It can be helpful to stew the fruit before you make crumble. You don’t have to, but it will ensure the fruit isn’t hard in the crumble, and also reduce the cooking time considerably. All ‘stewing’ means is roughly chopping the fruit and chucking in a saucepan with a small amount of water (or orange juice), and cooking for a few minutes until the fruit starts to break down.

I don’t add sugar, because I find the fruit sweet enough, and there is sugar already in the topping. I usually add a sprinkle of cinnamon – and sometimes ginger – to the stewed fruit. Zested orange would be great, too.

Another option is to roast the fruit. Stone fruit are great roasted. Slice, place on a tray, brush with a little oil, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and bake in a medium-hot oven for 15-20 minutes. Takes longer, but tasty.

I like my fruit still a bit chunky, but you can cook it until mushy if you prefer.

How to cook store cupboard crumble

I don’t tend to weigh out fruit, or even the crumble topping. I prefer to measure it visually. Spoon the fruit into an ovenproof dish (I use glass Pyrex) so that it’s a few centimetres (a couple of inches) deep. Then, sprinkle on the crumble topping until it’s the thickness you like. No need to press it down.

Any excess crumble topping can be placed in a glass jar or other container, and frozen until you want to make crumble next.

Bake in the oven on a medium heat (I’d go for 150 – 180°C / 300 – 360°F) for about 15 – 20 minutes. If you’ve stewed the fruit beforehand you don’t actually need to ‘cook’ the crumble so much as warm it through. If you’ve used pecan nuts, opt for the lower temperature as they are prone to burning at higher temperatures.

(Better to cook for slightly longer at a lower temperature than end up with a blackened top.)

It’s ready when the top is browned and the fruit is bubbling.

Although crumble is traditionally a dessert, I often make it for breakfast (cooking the night before and either eating cold, or warming through in the morning). It’s got less sugar in it than a lot of cereals. I think if it as inverted muesli with fruit at the bottom rather than on top.

To store, allow to cool and then refrigerate and then eat within a week, or freeze and use within 3 months.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What ingredients are sitting in your pantry right now, and how are you planning to use them up? Any pantry ingredients you’re wondering how to use right now? What staples are you keeping in your freezer? Any other thoughts? Please share in the comments below!

Reducing food waste: store cupboard crumble (+ ideas to use up old fruit)
15 replies
  1. Mollie MacLeod
    Mollie MacLeod says:

    Hi, Lindsay-thanks for your inspiring work….I’m making oatmeal crumble to substitute for bread/toast. Today’s breakfast- olive oil heated in the frying pan, oatmeal, pepper and salt, sunflower seed and pumpkin seed, fried/toasted. 2 fried eggs. avo and cucumber on the side.
    Beautiful!

    Reply
  2. Clare Van Daele
    Clare Van Daele says:

    My mouth is watering! That’s a much more interesting way to do crumble than the old recipe I have! Thanks for sharing, Lindsay.

    Reply
  3. Sharron
    Sharron says:

    Mmmmmhhh…crumble for breakfast. Now that is an idea! Have got some sad looking nectarines on the bench that I have needed some motivation to deal with, I now have it. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Dori
    Dori says:

    I make a lot of pancakes these days…beets, pumpkin, apples…if I have one of the above veggies/fruits and I have to much of it,I use it in pancakes.

    We adapt our menu daily to be sure not to throw any food. I always try to do this,but I’m proud of how well is going since the lockdown.(new records were set)
    For example fried rice I try to do weekly,with all kind of veggies we have around and we eat the same thing 2-3 times.
    Old bread…I’ve put some in the oven today (to toast), rub a bit of garlic on it afterwards and ate it with lentil soup.
    These are my solutions….

    Reply
    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      I really don’t make pancakes much at all Dori, and I’m not sure why – they are simple, delicious and as you say, great for using up other random things at the back of the fridge! I

      Love your ideas! Fried rice is a great one. So easy and can be quite different if you add different things. Being creative with food is my favourite kind of creative!

      Reply
  5. nofixedstars
    nofixedstars says:

    hardly anything goes to waste normally in our house. it’s a game to me. but sometimes people (*cough, cough*, my hubby) buy large bags of citrus fruits which start to soften before they can eat them all…

    my solution is to make either marmalade, candied peel, or to preserve them in large jars with a salt/juice brine. you can use any recipe for moroccan style preserved lemons and tweak it for whatever fruit. i just did some blood oranges to use later in various tagines and stews and bowls. we usually have some candied grapefruit peel which is nice with a cheese board, or in cocktails…

    slightly soft apples may be cut in half and baked with spices and cream. or slice an apple and an onion and saute them together to accompany grilled meats or cheesy polenta. it sounds odd, but is delicious, especially with smoked paprika or sage leaves added.

    it’s easy to dry fruit slices too, in the oven. pears and apples are what i’ve done most. slice thinly and bake on low setting, turning once.

    Reply
    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      I love this! So many great ideas. I’ve never made preserved lemons and it has been on my to-do list for at least a decade (not even kidding). I’ve made candied peel in the past, but it’s not something I do often. Love the idea of preserved oranges for tagines, yum!

      I want to come round to your house for snacks! Sounds amazing. Bet it smells great, too :)

      Reply
  6. Katy
    Katy says:

    I stew my rhubarb for crumble with a little pinch of baking soda, which reduces the amount of sugar it needs considerably. Rhubarb and orange is a great idea.

    Reply

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