Friday, October 21, 2011

Bramley Apple Tart (with a surprise for Fergus)

It has been over two weeks since I was last here because to be honest there has not been a lot of new or experimental cooking going on here.  The kitchen has been slightly neglected in part due to the Great British Bake-Off, Masterchef, a spot of book publishing, a lot of legal reading interspersed with play dates for the boys and generally trying to make some attempt at keeping everyone fed, the house in order the pile of washing from multiplying as is has been known to do.  Life is sometimes is like that here.

Today though, there was a pot of cauliflower soup in the hob simmering away gently, some spiced pear relish made and a rather good apple tart.  It being the season for apples, the markets are abound with lots of amazing varieties, so having purchased some nice Bramleys, the boys and I set to work.  It seemed like just the thing to do on a dark Autumnal day - light the fire and laze around in the smell of freshly baked apple pie.

I have fond childhood memories of apple tart, my mother making at least one a week.  I especially remember at this time of year she used to wrap up some coins in tin foil and bake them in the tart.  My little brother used to think that this was the most amazing thing in the world.

Most of my memories of him as a brother are pretty nasty and I will admit that my main aim as his (slightly) older sister was to do away with him.  After several unsuccessful attempts, including pushing him as a toddler through the stair banister three metres onto the hall floor beneath (he was winded but survived), I suppose I gave up and resigned myself to the unfair life of having to share my parents with another sibling.

So as a kind of apology for being the most evil sister in the world for a few years during the late 70's and early 80's and out of the many fond childhood memories that I do have of him,  we made apple tart with money in it, for Fergus.

Without my mother's tried and tested recipe to hand I decided to try out a recipe by Rachel Allen.  It was quite difficult to work with the pastry initially and had to refrigerate it several times but the end result was very good.  I also suffer from having a slightly over-hot and unbalanced oven so the edges got a little dark on half of it.  None the less, it was very good, with large chunks of sweet bramley apple in the middle with just a faint hint of clove.  Just watch your teeth on the money and be sure to warn anyone eating it!

You will need:
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 50g caster sugar ( I used exactly this and it was a little sweet and would use 40-45g in future)
  • 2 organic, free-range eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 4 large bramley apples, peeled and cored
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large oven proof plate, lightly greased with butter.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until it is pale and fluffy.  
  • Add one egg and continue to beat.
  • Beat the second egg in a separate bowl, pour half of it into the butter/sugar mix and set the other half aside for glazing the pastry.
  • Stir in the flour to the butter/sugar mix and using a dough hook, combine until you have a soft dough.
  • Tip onto a lightly floured surface and knead a little before dividing in two.
  • Shape each into a flat round just bigger than your hand.
  • Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.
  • Lightly butter your tin/plate and place each piece of pastry on a floured surface.
  • Roll out the pastry so that the plate fits easily in the middle with a little overlap.
  • Place the bottom layer on the plate.
  • Quickly slice the apples into chunks and toss in the sugar.  Fill the pie.
  • Toss over the cloves, a sprinkling of cinnamon and the tin-foil clad monies.
  • Roll out the top layer and using your rolling pin, drape the top over the bumpy apple filling.
  • Press down the two layers to seal and brush the top with the remaining half beaten egg.
  • Cut out a little v-shape in the top to let out steam.
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees (Gas 4) for 45 minutes until golden and delicious.  Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or my husband's favourite, vanilla ice-cream.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Green Tomato Chutney

The impatient gardener, although to be fair, I should say the only gardener in the house (clearly not me) arrived in with over a kilo of tomatoes last week of varying sizes and colours, ranging from a sort of granny smith green through to a peach and a dark velvety red. 
To be honest the last thing I had time for was chutney making, however we were heading north for the weekend so that I could do this crazy thing, so actually the task of chutney making made my rest day not so tedious after all and it also took my mind off the impending pain.  
So with the green tomatoes in the boot with the cunning kit, off we set.

Now I am afraid that I did not very exact amounts which resulted in a lot of liquid which had to be sieved and reduced but the end result is a sticky, sweet and sour jammy chutney which would be great with some baked ham or cold chicken.  i have tailored the recipe in the hope that this will not happen to you, but there is plan b if you keep reading.

You will need for 6 x 200ml jars:
  • 1.2kg multi-coloured tomatoes, make sure there are some red ones
  • 400g onions, roughly chopped
  • 100g raisins
  • 300g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 small hot red chilli, chopped finely
  • pinch salt
  • 350g white wine vinegar
  • Cut the tomatoes in half and separate the green and orange from the ripe red ones. 
  • Set aside the red tomatoes and place everything into the pan with the green and orange tomatoes. 
  • Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour, giving the occasional stir to reduce the risk of the chutney sticking. 
  • After about half and hour, add the ripe red tomatoes and continue to simmer until sticky and reduced - this should take another half hour.  
Plan B
  • If it doesn't look like it is thickening and is as jammy as you might like,  remove the fruit out with a slotted spoon and place it in a clean bowl.  
  • Bring the remaining syrup up to the boil and let it reduce and thicken for five or ten minutes.
  • Then return the fruit to the jammy liquid and then spoon into sterilized jars and seal.
Enjoy with cold meats or I think that a tablespoon or two of this might be a good addition to a beef stew or a big bowl of chilli.  Enjoy and better luck next year with the gardening!