After the long hot summer, I always look forward to the arrival of autumn. Sad though it is to say goodbye to cool, refreshing, summer food for another year; autumn brings its own delights. The days may start to get a little shorter but on the food front there are plenty of culinary compensations to be enjoyed. The flavours are more powerful and pronounced, as the ingredients lend themselves to more robust, earthy dishes with game, root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, wild mushrooms and apples all coming into season.
There is, perhaps, no ingredient more representative of autumn than a crisp, sweet-acidic, juicy apple. As a kid in the south of England, I would occasionally go “scrumping”. It basically means to steal apples from someone else’s tree or orchard where the overhanging branches of apple trees used to spill out from the gardens or fields. So I’ve always loved apples, they’ve taken all summer to ripen and have a fantastic flavour, whether you go for a variety that’s sweet or sour.
They have been around for over 4,000 years and their widespread popularity of apples is reflected in the incredible number of varieties available to us. It is estimated there are well over 7,500 types of apple grown around the world with an incredible array of colours, shapes, textures and tastes. Choose apples that are firm and unblemished. The old adage “a bad apple spoils the barrel” has a scientific basis: Apples emit ethylene gas, which accelerates the ripening process. The riper they are, the more ethylene they produce, which can rot other produce stored nearby.
In my kitchen, Apples are essential ingredients that liven up so many recipes and they combine so well with so many other flavours.
Typical partners include blackberry, cinnamon, almonds, hazelnuts, saffron, cloves and sage. They are perfect partners for pork, cabbage and hard cheese. I adore apples with beetroot. The sharpness of green apples works so well with the earthiness and tempers the richness of beetroot perfectly. If you mix diced cooked beetroot with diced raw, un-skinned green apples and a few crushed walnuts. Bind them in a little mayonnaise with a touch of horseradish and some finely chopped chives; you have amazing little salad that is a great match for smoked fish and grilled oily fish such as mackeral.
A fantastic way to enjoy all the freshness and vitality of apples is to eat them straight from the fruit basket or simply juice them. A perfect way to kick start any autumn day!
APPLE & CRANBERRY “STREUSEL” TARTLETS WITH APRICOT-POLLEN SAUCE
Prep time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Ingredients serves 6
130g unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs, beaten
50g ground almond
100g self-raising flour
1tbsp sour cream
2 sliced red apples, peeled and cored,
150g dried cranberries
90g brown sugar
60g cold butter, diced
2tbsp hazelnuts, toasted & crushed
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Apricot and pollen sauce:
200g dried apricots
Juice of one lemon
In a food processor, mix together flour, sugar, cinnamon and cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in 2 tbsp of hazelnuts. Set aside in a cool place.
Preheat the oven to 160C.
Butter 6 round 8cm round tart rings.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl using the dough hook until it is light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, a little at a time, adding a little flour if it curdles. On the lowest setting, gently fold in the ground almonds, sour cream and finally the flour, and combine everything without overworking. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place the buttered rings on top.
Spoon the pastry mixture between the rings and top them with the sliced apples & cranberries. Cover completely with the topping and bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove the tartlets from the oven and leave to cool.
Carefully lift the rings and place them in the middle of dessert plates. Run a small knive around the inside of the pastry ring and carefully lift off the ring. Serve with apricot-pollen sauce.
Apricot and pollen sauce:
Place all the ingredients over a gentle flame and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend in a food processor. Pass through a fine sieve and refrigerate until required.
APPLE CUPCAKES WITH CINNAMON TOPPING
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients Makes 10 cupcakes
2 peeled & diced apples
Juice of 2 lemons
A pinch of cinnamon
Basic cup cake mix:
120g butter, softened
120g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp milk
For the topping:
140g butter, softened
280g icing sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Place the diced apples in a saucepan with the sugar, the lemon juice, and the cinnamon. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until the apples are soft. Drain the liquid away and mash the apples lightly with a fork. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases. Divide the cooked apples between the cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a food processor until pale. Beat in the eggs a little at a time. Remove to a clean bowl and gently fold in the flour and baking powder using a large spoon, adding a little milk until the mixture is of a dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean.
Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
For the Topping, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half the icing sugar, cinnamon and beat until smooth. Then add the remaining icing sugar with one tablespoon of the milk, adding more milk if necessary, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Spoon the topping into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the topping using a spiraling motion onto the cup cakes in a large swirl.