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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Stuffed Aubergine

Leafing through my grandmother’s recipes again, I’ve been seeing a lot of anchovies, which, after deciding to cook every dish she has penned out, I didn’t really want to attempt. Anchovies: I wasn’t a fan. I’m always avoiding them on pizzas or in anything really. But I do love aubergine – and for the sake of this dish, I decided to give anchovies another try.

I nibbled timidly at an oily fillet from one of those flat supermarket tins and I came to the conclusion that they were not that bad after all. Anchovies had made it my ‘Yes’ list. It must have been that clichéd general opinion of the offending fish that meant I never gave them any consideration.

Don’t let this happen to you. It is hardly as if most recipes ask you to eat them straight out of the tin. When you cook with them, they actually melt away into a nothingness and contribute an extra fullness in the overall flavour of a dish. Be it some sort of deep ragù or stuffed veg or mince meat dish, just a couple of small fillets can make a brilliant difference.

But back to the dish at hand: my grandmother’s stuffed aubergine. I have replaced her use of four tablespoons of breadcrumbs with a cup cous-cous, for more texture. Cous-cous was not a very popular ingredient in the post-war 1940’s. Instant cous-cous was probably hard to come by, if in existence at all and she would have had to steam her cous-cous pearls instead of just adding hot water. But feel free to use either.

Ingredients:
2 aubergine
2 finely chopped anchovy fillets
Chopped fresh parsley
2 ripe tomatos
6 chopped green olives
1 cup cous-cous
Olive oil
Parmesan

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200°. Cut and hollow out 2 inch sections of  aubergines and sit in a small roasting pan. For the filling, pour 1 cup of boiling water onto 1 cup of cous-cous and stir. Leave covered for a few minutes to allow the water to be absorbed – it doesn’t have to be completely cooked it will continue cooking in the oven. Dice up the ripe tomatoes and mix with the chopped olives, anchovy filets parsley and plenty of freshly milled black pepper. Add the cous-cous and mix really well. Then stuff the hollowed aubergines.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and top with grated parmesan for a cheesy crust. Bake in the oven for half an hour.

Serve as a side to a meaty dish, or as a meal with a little salad. ~

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.

Coconut Macaroons

I first tasted coconut macaroons in the Christmas Markets in Manchester a few years ago. Although originally macaroons are made with crushed almonds, these coconut versions are actually quite easy to make and are pretty snacks to decorate the table for any sort of party. Or just a comforting sweet bite to bake all for yourself…

Ingredients:
200g shredded coconut
150g caster sugar
2 larges egg whites
8 squares of dark chocolate (or milk if you prefer)

Method:
Simply mix all three ingredients well in a bowl and chill for fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°. Using an ice-cream scoop, make moulds of coconut half-spheres and space them out on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper.

Bake for fifteen minutes, until the coconut catches a golden colour. Remove from the oven and whilst cooling, melt a small amount of dark chocolate in a ban-marie. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled macaroons – or alternatively, dip half of each macaroon in the chocolate and allow the chocolate to set on the baking paper before eating. ~

Fatayer Bi Sabanekh – Spinach Turnovers

My Grandmother wrote in 1969 that she sampled this little snack on a picnic in the mountains. Although she was in Austria at the time, this is a Lebanese snack. Now, forty years on, I find myself making them for a picnic of my own. These are little spinach triangle pies, bursting with the flavours of lemon and cinnamon. The trick is to get the pastry as thin as you dare. You may, like me, consider this a peculiar mixture of flavours – but it’s a delightful little edible and really worth a taste.

 

Ingredients:

For the pastry:
7 cups bread flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried fast action yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar
Cold water

For the filling:
2lbs fresh spinach, chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts
Lemon Juice
Sumac
Salt and pepper
Cinnamon

 

Method:
Add a tablespoon of warm water to the sugar and the yeast to activate it. Stir in the olive oil, flour and salt. Slowly add the water a tablespoon at a time and bring together the mix to form a stiff dough. Add a little more flour to compensate if you make the dough too wet.  Cover with a damp cloth and let it stand in warm place for half and hour, before rolling out on a floured surface. It needs to be thin – no more than half a centimetre thick. With a round pastry cutter, cut two-inch diameter circles. Combine the filling ingredients together and spoon a tablespoon into the middle of each pastry disc and push three sides of the circle into the centre, pressing the edges together firmly.

Place on a baking sheet and cook in a hot oven until the edges of the triangle have caught a little colour and the pastry is golden.

Serve hot or cold with slices of lemon to squeeze into the centre. It’s a great accompaniment with lamb, some full flavoured meat (cold is best). Although it may be considered a crossing of various cultures, I also like having it on a kind of mezze platter, with my favourite sliced smoked meats or a bit of leftover roast lamb, roasted aubergines and garlic lathered in olive oil and with a bowl of fresh tzatziki dip.

Scones for Tea?

Crispy just-baked shells of cloud soft warm doughy sweetness. With raisins or with cheese. I’ve even seen treacle and herby ones too. Are they scary to make? No. Do they need that shop-bought perfection shape of approval? No. You could be sitting on a sunny croquet lawn in the West Country, or you could be in your front room with the rain pouring off the window pane – but I’m telling you now, there’s nothing nicer than a freshly baked scone with clotted cream and your favourite, well made pot of English tea.

The secret? Sorry – the secret is they’re just too easy to make! You’ll end up with a pile like these.

Ingredients:
230g self raising flour
A tsp salt
25g unsalted cold butter
120ml ice cold milk
55g caster sugar
A handful of raisins

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the sugar and a pinch of salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes – the colder the butter, the easier this is. Then, with your hands, rub the butter through the flour to make a crumbly mix. Add the raisins and then the milk, a little at a time, and using a knife stir it in, combining the liquid with the flour to bring together a cold dough. When you can form a small ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for no longer than a minute or two. You don’t want the dough to get too warm, just smooth enough to roll with a rolling pin or push out with your hands. Flatten the dough to no thinner than 1.5cm and using a pastry cutter (I used a 5cm diameter one) cut out scones and lay on a greased baking tray. Be sure that when you press the cutter into the scone dough, press evenly around the edges – this will help the scone rise more evenly and you wont get overly lopsided ones.

You should be able to get between 10 and 12 from the dough, but you will have to re-roll the dough trimmings out after the first five or six.

Once arranged on the tray, brush any left over milk over the tops.

Place on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven on 220° for fifteen minutes or until nicely golden brown. Just keep an eye one them during those last few minutes – blackening edges make for ugly looking tops.

For cheesy scones, omit the sugar and raisins and grate about 100g (two heaped handfuls) of cheese into the flour before you rub the butter in. For a nice colour use something like Red Leicester. In actual fact, I also used some extra mature cheddar as well.

Pineapple Custard Tart

Ingredients  Pineapple chunks 1 cup double cream 2 large egg yolks Vanilla essence Butter 50g (cubed) Flour 125g 1 tsp caster sugar 2 tbsp milk 2 eggs Make up the sweet short crust pastry by rubbing the butter and flour and sugar together between your fingers. When the mixture is crumbly add the eggs and […]

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