Apples

With Apple Days happening all over the country, and the press claiming it to be the best apple year in decades, I thought I’d quickly post links to a few of my favourite apple related posts on Spade Fork Spoon. Without a doubt, apples are my favourite fruit, and there are no better apples than the plethora of apple varieties grown in the British Isles. I like to eat seasonally, so my first apple of the season is from our tree at the allotment (Beauty of Bath being one of the earliest of the earlies). That first bite into the crisp, slightly pink hued flesh, is a moment of delight, made more so by the long wait from the last of the stored British apples many months previous.

In a world where we are increasingly eating too much sugar in our diet, the apples natural sweetness can be our friend, adding a sugary hit to dishes without the need for additional refined sugars. Whether in salads, stews, cakes, breads, the apple is a cook’s friend.

Linked to the images below are some of my favourite apple related posts from the blog. Enjoy!

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Favourite Five Apple Recipes

favourite five Apples, and specifically British apples, are my favourite fruit. I love the variety in flavours that apples bring, from sweet and juicy, to crisp and sharp. I think that there is no better apple than a British one, so always have a self-imposed break from apples once the supplies of home-grown fruit runs out. I don’t see the point in importing foods which we grow so well anyway. Seasonality also has the advantage of allowing my palate to enjoy the plethora of other fruits available, and truly appreciate the first apple of the year. We have a really early apple tree (Beauty of Bath), so the first apple of the season is always one of our own and munched during the summer holidays. But, whether Cox, Russet, Windsor, Bramley, or any other of the 1,900 different varieties of apple trees held at the National Fruit Collection in Kent, they are a super ingredient for either sweet or savoury dishes.

A Simple Apple Pie – There is no better dessert than an apple pie. I like to use a combination of stewed apple and slices of apple in my pies. By stewing some of the fruit first with a little sugar, you get a soft sweetness with the addition of fruit with a bit of a bite. The joy of a pie is its simplicity, its fruit and a pastry top. The top can be puff-pastry, shortcrust pastry, homemade, or (dare I say it?) shop bought. Top the fruit with the pastry, give it a wash with egg white and a sprinkle of sugar and bake til golden. Serve with cream, custard, ice cream, even mascarpone.

apple pie

Apple & Blackberry Jelly -This is inspired by The Pig in Brockenhurst, where my son enjoyed an apple jelly at the end of a delicious meal. Its a simple dessert; so evocative of childhood, but also the waning of the summer and the coming of autumn. Take some apple juice and heat it with a little sugar (depending on how sharp the juice is). I use leaf gelatin, which needs three sheets to soft set 500ml of liquid. Prepare the leaf gelatin by soaking it in cold water for a few minutes, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine and stir into the warm juice until completely dissolved. Pour into small glasses and drop a few blackberries into each glass. Place in the fridge for a few hours until set.

apple and blackberry jelly

Apple Cake – This a deliciously moist gluten-free cake, based on one in Nigella’s Feast. I use whichever apples I have in the house to make the puree and often make too much, in order to enjoy it with porridge in the morning. The cake itself is a simple process, blitzing together the puree and eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, before pouring into the cake tin.

Pork Chops with caramelised apples and sage crème fraiche – This is a great way to serve pork chops or steaks. Start by frying two quartered and cored apples in 20g melted butter and a small spoon of light brown sugar. Cook for 5 mins, until golden and tender. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Add a little oil to the pan and cook four pork steaks for 5-6 mins per side, until cooked through and golden. Stir in 100ml Crème fraiche and 15ml chopped sage. Serve the pork with the apples, mash and perhaps green beans.

Waldorf Salad – Combine 1sliced apple, a chopped stalk of celery, 50g of walnuts and a handful of rocket in a bowl. Mix a little lemon juice with 1/2 tsp. of grain mustard, then stir it into 100ml of mayonnaise. Toss the salad ingredients in the mayonnaise and serve.

What’s in your favourite five apple recipes?

The Macro Allotment

May is the month when plants spring into life and a trip the allotment always brings something new emerging from the ground. It’s the month when fruit forms and crops start to swell.

I’m dead chuffed to be shortlisted in the FOOD category for the BIBS (Brilliance in Blogging Award). If you think I deserve to be in the final then please vote for me by clicking on the picture below. Thank you for all your support!

BiB Food 2014

 

A Simple Christmas Dessert

The early apples we have, Beauty of Bath, really don’t keep. However, our plot is overhung by the most wonderful eating apple tree, and these apples keep pretty well. As a child we often had baked apples, stuffed with sultanas and Demerara sugar, for desert and I decided to have one the other day for lunch. Being that it is Christmas, and we had an open jar of mincemeat in the fridge, I chose to fill the centre of the fruit with some of this festive fruit and nut mix. Teamed with a splash of cream over the hot apple, the sharpness contrasts brilliantly with the sweet mincemeat.20131218-122415.jpg

You will need

1 Cooking Apple (A Bramley is ideal)
1 tbsp Mincemeat
Cream to serve
 
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Core your apple and fill the space where the core was with the mincemeat. Bake for 30 minutes until golden on top and soft and fluffy inside. Serve with a splash of cream.

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Jerusalem Artichoke & Apple Soup

November has traditionally been a month when our allotment’s harvest is limited; although this year I seem to have succeeded in keeping the cropping season going for longer. There are brassicas ready for accompanying a hearty stew and plenty of the bright and earthy beetroot and chard. However, one crop which I always grow and often fail to take advantage of are Jerusalem artichokes. They are not artichokes like those found in delicious Italian antipasti, but those which are tubers below a sunflower type plant. Indeed the Jerusalem part of the name comes from the Italian for sunflower, Girasole, whereas the artichoke part is down to their taste being similar to globe artichokes. Whatever their origins they are one of the easiest plants to grow; planted as tubers in spring, they grow up to 2m in height with small sunflowers on top. The tubers can be dug from September, and as long as you don’t dig out all the tubers (it’s almost impossible to find every one), they’ll come back year after year to provide you with colour and a great screening plant.

In terms of flavour they are similar to the globe artichoke, but nuttier, and apparently are one of the best non-meat sources of iron. We’ve made a delicious gratin of Jerusalem artichokes in the past, but a the weather was cold I decided on a soup and teamed the nutty artichokes with sharp apples to make a velvety soup.

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What you will need
1 tbsp  lemon juice
450 g  Jerusalem artichokes
3 tbsp  butter
1 onion, chopped
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp  salt
1/4 tsp  white pepper
500 ml chicken stock
Chopped chives to garnish

Jerusalem artichokes are usually pretty knobbly, but this year they seem to have grown quite smooth. Even so, they need to be peeled and sliced and then put into a bowl of acidulated water (1 tbsp. of lemon juice in a pint of water) to maintain their creamy white colour. Meanwhile, gently sweat the onion in the butter until it is soft and translucent, at which point add the sliced artichokes (retaining the lemon water for use later). Cook for a few minutes before adding the apple, salt and pepper. After a further five minutes add a little of the lemon water and the chicken stock and simmer until the artichokes are soft. Blend the mix into a smooth soup, adjust the seasoning and serve with a garnish of chopped chives.

Apple Flapjack for an Allotment Bonfire Night

Our allotment site is a great slice of society. The plot is surrounded by others tended by young working families, elderly couples, the unemployed, hard worked public sector workers; people of all races and creeds. It is a great and supportive community, and last night we shared on a bonfire celebration. Allotment holders from across the site got together and sat around a raging fire enjoying the local firework display, cider made from our own apples, and pizzas cooked on the wood burning pizza oven.

Wanting to contribute something to the proceedings, I decided to create a bonfire flapjack. As we still have quite a few windfall apples I chose to flavour it with them, and use some of the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds I’d collected last months. I often make River Cottage Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars, which used to be a big hit with my former colleagues. So I used the recipe as a basis for my Bonfire Apple Flapjack. To give it a more bonfire dark stickiness, I used dark muscovado sugar, and added a combination of grated and diced apple instead of huge dried fruits.

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What you will need
125g unsalted butter
125g dark brown muscovado sugar
100g no-sugar-added crunchy peanut butter
75g honey, plus a little more to finish
Grated cooking apple
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
250g porridge oats (or the equivalent weight in oats and crushed leftover cereal)
A large apple peeled, cored and diced
100g mixed seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)

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Start by greasing and lining a baking tin, about 20cm square. Put the butter, sugar, peanut butter, honey, grated lemon zest and cooking apple in a deep saucepan over a low heat. Heat until the mixture is melted, stirring occasionally. Combine the oats, diced apple and most of the seeds into the melted butter mixture and stir until it’s thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking tin, smoothing the top as you go. Finally scatter the rest of the seeds over the surface and trickle with a little more honey. At this point I tend to use the palm of my hand to press down the mix slightly.
Pop the tin in an oven preheated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake for about 30 minutes, until the flapjack is golden all over and slightly crispy on the edges. It’s really important that it is left to cool completely before turning out and cutting into squares with a sharp knife. As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests in his original recipe; this is a tricky task, but the flapjack will cut much better if you can manage to hang on before devouring. The crispy oats contrast well with the soft sweet apples, and the muscovado sugar hints of toffee apples on a cold afternoon. A perfect treat to munch whilst watching fireworks and watching the dancing flames of a bonfire.

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Good Old Blackberry and Apple Crumble

One of the advantages of an allotment plot with a slightly overgrown bramble hedge is an abundant supply of blackberries to pick and eat. The slight trouble is that there seems to be a never ending supply and a raft of recipes is needed to consume them all. I hate to see them wasted. Enter the Blackberry and Apple crumble – a good old fail safe pudding. We’ve got a couple of apple trees at the plot too, so it uses some of our own delicious apples too. Especially the early ones which have to be eaten quickly as they don’t keep.

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Crumble is well loved and made by many, and this recipe is just my standard crumble. Seems to go down well with the family.

  • 125g plain flour
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 5-6 early apples
  • 80g blackberries
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 25g unsalted butter

First peel, core and cut up the apples into small slices. Heat the butter and gently cook the apples, adding the sugar, and continuing to cook the apples until they are soft. Once the apples are soft, add the blackberries and cook for a couple of minutes until the fruit is soft (but still partially whole) and releasing the gorgeous redeployment red juices.

To make the crumble topping, lightly rub the butter and flour together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively whizz them in the food processor for a few seconds – Which is often the easiest option hurry trying to quickly knock up a pudding for a hungry family. Once you have breadcrumb like mix, stir in the sugar and porridge oats

Spoon the fruit into a 23cm oven proof dish and top with the crumble mix. Put in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for half an hour or until lightly brown on top. Finally enjoy with custard or cream!

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