My apple tree produced some tasty apples last year, but most years they’re small, hard and rather sharp. However friends have trees which produce tons of apples of various varieties, and so I’ve benefitted from generous bagsful of Bramleys and other types.
One of the pleasures of having plenty of an ingredient is researching the recipes. I have a fairly extensive collection of recipe books, many relating to cuisines from around the Mediterranean and further afield; some by some of the chefs whom I admire the most.
I haven’t made many recipes from my Simon Rogan book: for anyone who doesn’t know, he runs L’Enclume, a restaurant at Cartmel in the south of Cumbria and one of the four or five Michelin-starred restaurants in the county. I decided I’d try his Fig and Apple Chutney, with a few variations. I’m not a great chutney fan but it went down well with the people I gave it to, even though it came out a bit runny despite cooking it for ages. I also made some cheese scones for it to go with (always best fresh from the oven).
I also decided to make a very complex Raymond Blanc recipe, which entailed making about 6 different elements. As I wanted to get it right I took two days to do the entire thing. He calls it Apple Mousse birthday cake; it’s a slightly spicy sponge base with creme cremeux, caramelised apple slices and apple mousse on top, then a layer of apple glaze as the finishing touch. There was a bit of calvados in it too…
I then managed to sprain my ankle running, so decided to rest it one weekend. Although I went to the swimming pool – which was a far better experience than I’d feared it would be – this meant I had plenty of time to do some more cooking. I made a bacon and broccoli flan (with excessive extra cheese – it was yummy); an apple tart which had a sort of vanilla custard on it; and then something out of my French cookery book which was called Apple Fondant with a Pommeau sauce. The latter would have been better made with thinner slices of apple but the pommeau was lovely (cream, calvados and sugar syrup, basically).
As more apple supplies arrived, I started looking for recipes that were a bit different. Monica Galleti’s Apple and Blackberry bake was OK – better served hot than lukewarm – but I think I’d have preferred the topping if it had been a bit lighter (there was no flour in it, just ground almonds). The Chocolate Apple cake out of the Green & Black’s recipe book didn’t taste that great when it was straight out of the oven – the apple filling tasted a bit sharp and the dark chocolate topping went well with the sponge but not the filling. The following day however it tasted rather good. I think the addition of cocoa nibs rather than grated chocolate to the sponge was an improvement – there were also chopped hazelnuts in the sponge (and on the top of the cake) which the cocoa nibs complemented.
Finally I made a Swedish apple cake. It uses a brioche-type dough flavoured with cardamon, and is topped with apple slices tossed in cinnamon and rosemary, and pine nuts. I’ve made it twice now and I’m not convinced by it: I think using bread flour might be better and also the apple should be mixed into the dough rather than just put on the top. It also took longer to cook than the recipe said and in fact today was still a bit soggy in the middle. The flavours were good though.
As you can see from the photo, I also made French sticks. I’ve been given more apples – I think it might be time for more chutney in time for Christmas.