Caramelized Apple Dessert

Sunday dinner is done and thoughts are turning to dessert. The weather is still cold outside and the snow is losing its charm now, becoming slush on the roads that will no doubt turn Monday’s dreary January commute into something a little more treacherous. So with our stomachs conjugating over the roast we’ve just had, I wanted something for dessert that would bridge that melancholy gap between the weekend and the week days that follow. Something to put a smile on peoples’ faces like a pudding that’s warm and friendly. A apple tart should do the trick. A little sweet. A little sharp. Served with hot custard and or cold cream accompaniments for those that  want to really and truly punch through their weekend calorie limits.

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Ingredients:

For the pastry:
Butter 50g (cubed)
Flour 125g
2 tbsp milk
2 eggs

For the filling:
3 sweet apples
Lime juice (2-3 tbsp)
2 cups ice cold water
2-2 tbsp Muscavado sugar

Custard or heavy cream for serving.

Method:
Rub the butter,  flour and sugar together then when the mixture resembles crumbs, add the eggs and milk slowly to combine the pastry together, working it into a dough. Knead until the dough is smooth, wrap and then chill for half an hour. Roll out to a thickness of half a centimetre (between two sheets of baking parchment if it helps). Lay the pastry across a fluted flan tin, pressing it into the corners gently and cutting off any excess. Chill for another half an hour or until you are ready to bake. In the mean time, peel, core and slice very thinly the apples before soaking them in the lime juice and water. This keeps them fresh, adds a little sharpness, and slows the browning process down.

When you are ready to bake, line the pastry with concentric circles of apple slices tightly. Dust the top with the Muscovado sugar and bake on 180º for 30 minutes.

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Green Summer Salad with Chicory

Unfamiliar fruit and vegetables: you know the ones. You might have seen a foreign fruit on a supermarket shelf but never bought it yourself. You might have tasted an unusual vegetable in a restaurant but haven’t the foggiest idea how to prepare it. If this is you, don’t worry. To be honest I think there are a lot more of us than we’d care to admit.

Should this sound familiar, how about picking one of those packs of fruit or veg at you local grocers that you wouldn’t normally buy? You might even be surprised. Give yourself a little challenge this summer. Over the next few weeks I want to highlight some of those not-your-every-day-veg, with interesting facts about them and hopefully some good recipes to boot!

So I will start on the topic of Chicory (aka. Endive):

If you have never used it before, Chicory tips are a lovely salad leaf with a slightly bitter flavour. Because of this bitterness, it makes an interesting addition to a salad. It is also high in vitamin C.

So this salad green salad with chicory should mean no more generic Iceberg lettuce or salad-in-a-bag for you next time!

My Grandmother loved a chicory salad, often adding lengths of celery for crunch and apple slices for a contrasting sweetness. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
3 tips of chicory (red or green)
1 large head of celery
1 apple (Cox variety is a nice choice or any other eating apple)
1/2 a cup of walnuts
Parsley to garnish

For a very simple French dressing (optional)

2 parts good olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar.
You may add a teaspoon of whole grain mustard to every cup of French dressing made if you fancy an extra kick, a splash of apple juice to sweeten or even both.

Method:
Split off the chicory leaves and place in a bowl along with thin slices of apple and similar sized lengths of celery. Then if you wish, toss through a little French dressing (nothing too strong). Garnish with walnuts and parsley.

Serve immediately. Preparing this salad beforehand will result in the chicory and apples browning in the open air.

I love this recipe because it is so versatile. It goes well with barbecued chicken kebabs and flat breads, or a cold roast beef platter. Chicory is also a great braised. Slice the tips roughly in half at an angle and brush with a bit of oil, before placing on a griddle briefly with a bit of onion or under a direct flame in grill or over a barbecue. Like this, chicory tips are a fantastic accompaniment with a chunky bit of pan-fried fish steak or fish en papillote.

So think about giving your self a challenge one day next week with a fruit or vegetable that you’ve always wondered about, but hesitated to buy at the supermarket. You never know what you might enjoy.    ~

Apple Loaf Cake

Like apples? Don’t like apples? Either way I suggest you try out this treat for elevenses one week: a sweet snack with a quick cup of tea. It’s wonderfully moorish!

Ingredients:
2 eating apples
A tablespoon of lemon juice
A tablespoon of demerara sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
110g flour
110g caster sugar
100g unsalted soft butter
2 large eggs (beaten)

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180º (gas mark 4).

Cream the butter and sugar together, until white and smooth. The softer the butter, the easier this is to do. Add a little of the beaten egg and stir in, alternating with the flour until all the flour and egg are mixed into a smooth batter. Swirl in the table spoon of cinnamon to create a rough marble effect in the batter. If you don’t like cinnamon, just leave it out. Then pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper.

A good tip, when it comes to lining any square cake tin is to leave extended bits of paper sticking over the edge of the tin. You can use these to lift the cake out after cooking.

Finely slice the apples into very thin segments and arrange over the top of the cake batter. I stood mine up in the mix in two long rows, but not digging them in too much – as they will sink into the cake as it rises during the baking process.

Sprinkle with a little lemon juice and demerara sugar. Bake for 55 minutes on 180° in the middle shelf on an oven.

Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting. To make sure it is cooked all the way through, test the cake by running a metal skewer through the centre. Although this is naturally quite a wet cake, it should still come come out fairly clean, without batter. If not, put it back in the oven for another ten minutes.

Fruity baking

Back in Norwich – and a day of rather successful kitchen antics it indeed has been.

sweet sponge with a blueberry and apple topping

Ingredients:
220g self raising flour
175g caster sugar
120g unsalted butter
110ml milk
2 large eggs
To garnish:
1 apple, sliced and tossed in a little lemon juice
A cup of fresh blueberries
A sprinkle of sugar

Method:
Start with soften butter and cream in caster sugar. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Mix again to a runny mixture, then add the flour and mix once more until the ingredients are combined. Pour into the centre of a 6″ circular tin (or 5″ square tin).

To decorate, I like to pierce the fresh blueberry skins so that juices stain the apples during the baking process. Slice the apple as finely as you can and lay across the cake however you like, depending on the shape of the tin you use. Top with the blueberries and finish with a sprinkle of sugar.

A lovely fresh cake, and fantastic eaten warm.