Apple and Bramble Crumble

My all time favorite pudding, Autumn isn’t complete without one every weekend.

I’ve loved Apple and Bramble Crumble for as long as I can remember, I used to request it as part of my birthday meal every year when I was younger. No other crumble will suffice, it’s just not right if it doesn’t contain the jewel of the Autumnal hedgerow. I can’t walk past a bramble bush without stopping to stuff my face, it’s one of lifes great pleasures. It’s always a sad day when the last packet of frozen brambles are used up, knowing that it’ll be months and months before the next chance to pluck one from it’s thorny home.

I think one of the beauties of making Apple and Bramble Crumble is how you can tinker with it, but still retain the very essence of the dish. It doesn’t really matter if you use the bog standard recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, go all Raymond Blanc and cook the crumble and filling seperatley, or spice up the filling like Tony Singh, the essence of the dish remains.

So last time I made it, I decided to go a bit off piste and rather than just following the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book recipe, I decided to follow Tony’s lead and get the spices out. Sautéing the apples in spiced butter, prior to baking... In with some jaggery, rather than plain white sugar, then a cinnamon stick and a star anise were added and left to infuse while I chopped the apples. Eaters of course, as you want your apples to stay chunky and solid and not turn to mush, like a cooker would. I also used a variety of apples, so each mouthful would yield a slightly different taste and texture.

I’ve found that I need my hob on nearly full whack to get any sort of colour on the apples within the few minutes the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book recipe says to cook them for. In this instance, that meant the aromas coming out of the pan were immense, jaggery certainly makes for a tasty caramelisation. I think maybe a couple more star anise next time though, or a longer infussion, so that flavour comes through a bit more.

All in all, it was a very tasty pimping of an otherwise bog standard Apple and Bramble Crumble and one that warrants a bit more experimentation. Maybe next time I’ll cook the filling and the topping separately and see how that works. Always serving it with ice cream mind, none of this double cream nonsense…

Mulled Pears

Mulled pears...

Last year when I was making cider, you couldn’t move in the orchard without crushing pears with each footstep. Not so this year, with hardly any fruit on the trees, so when I found some pears I grabbed them with both hands. Rather than using the paltry amount to boost the perceived sweetness of my cider, I decided to try mulling them, using the instructions in Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2.

I appeared to have collected two different varietals of pear, so decided to make two batches, one with each. The first batch was the step into the unknown, do I quarter or just half these small pears, how many cloves to stuff into each one, how full do I fill the kilner jar with syrup, the usual kind of stuff. As it turned out, the process was quite simple, although I ballsed it up at the end by inverting one of the Kilner jars when it had just come out of the oven.

I didn’t know that Kilner jars allowed the steam to escape, even when closed, so imagine my surprise to find a load of boiling syrup ejected round the seal when I turned the jar the right way round again. Unsurprisingly, this jar didn’t seal. It also didn’t seal when I tried to reprocess it in the oven the following day. So it’s currently in the fridge and the kids and I are enjoying eating the contents.

I thought the second batch would go slightly smoother, especially as I now know why you don’t touch a newly sealed Kilner jar. The second batch of pears were slightly bigger though, so even with them all being quartered, it was quite a tight fit to get them all in the two jars. Because of this, I’m not sure I managed to get all the air pockets out when add the the syrup, so when they cooled, the level of syrup was far, far too low. Also, one of the jar again failed to seal. So both of those will be reprocessed after having some light sugar syrup added to them.

Quince and Pear Tart

Quince and Pear Tart

One weekend a few months back, I decided that I’d like to bake a fruit tart. My first thoughts were along the lines of a traditional apple affair, but as we had some quince and pears kicking around, I decided to use those instead.

I knew I wanted to use the quince, but I wasn’t sure what else to use. I opened my copy of the Flavour Thesaurus, expecting it to be replete with quince pairings, but found only the one, mentioned as part of the Apple & Pear entry. Luckily it mentioned that quince was the ideal thing to flavour apple or pear tarts with, which is just as well, as I wanted to use up some pears I’d been given.

The Flavour Thesaurus also mentioned grating the quince, and adding it skin and all, which is what I did. I knew the gratings would have been be cooked for a while, along with the chopped up pears, so decided to adapt Tony Singh‘s Apple crumble with star anise recipe from The Incredible Spice Men, mainly as everyone knows that star anaise and pears go togeather. I was just after the way he par-cooked the filling, rather than the crumble topping.

Filling sorted, I hoicked my copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book off the shelf and opened it at the pages dealing with pastry. I knew I was after some sort of sweetened shortcrust and decided to go with a pâte sucrée, rather than a pâte brisée. I decided not to blind bake the pastry, as being sweetened, I was convinced that it would be fine. So I lined a loose bottomed flan tin with the pastry and ladled the filling into it.

I’ll be honest and say I was a bit worried, as the filling was quite wet, from all the pear and quince juice, plus all the butter. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I put the top on and plopped it into the oven. I needn’t have worried though, as the pastry was fine, even though a bit of juice did come bubbling out of the slits I’d cut in the top. A quick sprinkle with some caster sugar and it was left to cool for a bit, before we had it for pudding. The leftovers lasted for a few days, they made lunchtimes at work just that extra bit tasty.

I’m normally that kind of person who slavishly follows a recipe and gets very stressed when things aren’t going according to the instructions. I was quite impressed with myself for managing to knock this up from inspiration, rather than than from a found recipe. I was going to list all the ingredients and the method I’d used etc, but to be honest, I sort of winged it. If you’ve found this page because you want to make something similar, then I hope I’ve given you enough hints and pointers to the books and recipes that inspired me, so you can figure out what I did.

Entertaining

Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce

We had friends round for dinner last Saturday evening, which meant I got to do some cooking. It was just a shame that I was recovering from a bout of tonsillitis, so I’d not really been up for looking through recipe books, or even thinking about cooking for the previous week and a half. But since I needed to put something on the table, I had to break out the recipe books and try and put together a menu.

I originally thought about finally attempting some stuff out of the Terre à Terre cookbook, but realised that I wasn’t quite well enough for that level of forward planning. Which basically left it as a straight flight between Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Denis Cotter’s For The Love of Food. Since I didn’t want it to be too formal, or too demanding, I decided to go with some recipes from Plenty, not that I’m trying to say that Denis Cotter is to formal or demanding, he’s not. The starter was new, but the three things I’d picked for the main course were all recipes I’d cooked before, I was trying to make it a relatively easy and stress free day and go for more of a Mediterranean table covered in food affair.

I wasn’t sure about what to do for pudding though, but as I’d been flicking through Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian a lot recently, I decided to go with her Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake. I’d wanted to make it a couple of weekends previously, but something came up and I didn’t get the chance, so this was the perfect opportunity.

The notes below are mostly to jog my memory if I ever come to cook them again for entertaining people. If you find them useful then great!

Starter: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce
I followed the recipe to the letter, with the oven at 200°C, but after the stated 40 minute cooking time, the aubergine wasn’t really done enough. I wouldn’t say it was still raw, but it certainly wasn’t as soft as I was expecting. I’ll have to bare this in mind if I do it again and either leave them in for longer, or use a slightly higher temperature. The only other things I can comment on are that unless you absolutely drown the aubergines in the buttermilk sauce, you’ll have loads left over. Similarly with the pomegranate, you probably only need the seeds from half of one, unless you really want a massive pile on top.

Also just realised that I didn’t sprinkle any za’atar on top of the buttermilk sauce, not sure where my head was at that evening…

The recipe for this one is on the Guardian’s website.

Main: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Itamar’s Bulghar Pilaf
Nothing to be said about this one, it’s dead easy to prepare and tastes amazing. Really this is a just a note to myself to make sure that I have all the required ingredients before starting to prepare a dish, especially tomato purée. Then you don’t have to txt your guests and ask them to pop into the supermarket on their way over to pick you some up…
Main: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Leek Fritters
The recipe calls for chopping the leeks into 2cm thick slices and fry with the shallots for fifteen minutes. Two things, either stir the leeks more frequently so they don’t catch and cook for a bit longer so they are soft all the way through, or chop them slightly thinner so they don’t take quite as long to cook. I found that not all the leeks were soft all the way through when prepared according to the recipe. Also, don’t whisk the egg white before it’s required, otherwise it goes a bit manky if left to sit for a bit and re-whisking it doesn’t get it back to how it was.

Finally, you really need to leave them to cook for quite awhile on each side, if you try and flip them to early, they’ll just fall to bits and be rubbish. The base should be quite a dark brown before you attempt to flip them, then you know that the fritter is solid and will survive being turned over.

This recipe is also available on the Guardian’s website.

Main: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Smoky Frittata
This recipe calls for scamorza affumicata, which is a smoked mozzarella. I know you can buy it from the cheese shop in Cambridge, but they have to order it in and it might take a week, so you really need to plan in advance. I’m sure that the oak smoked cheddar that I use instead gives a totally different taste and has different melting characteristics. One of these days I really need to get my finger out and order the real thing. Also, when adding the smoked paprika, make sure you are whisking in a big enough bowl, as it has a tendency to clump together.

Yupo, yet another recipe that’s on the Guardian’s website.

Pudding: Maria Elia – Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake
The recipe just calls for a 20cm springform cake tin, just make sure the one you use is deep, as this is one big cake! I prepared a tin and the I just knew it wasn’t deep enough once all the ingredients had been mixed together. The picture in the book is top down, so gives no indication of depth, but the one I made was 5cm deep at the edges and 7cm deep in the middle. Also remember to put the cinnamon stick into the syrup when you’re making it, I’m sure that would have made it even more delicious.

The recipe says to cook for around an hour, until a skewer comes out clean, I ended up cooking mine for an hour and a quarter and the skewer wasn’t coming out clean from certain parts of the cake. In the end I just figured that it had had enough and took it out, I didn’t want to do my usual thing of over cooking everything.

Turns out this recipe is on the Daily Mail website.

Pudding: Maria Elia – Ginger Sorbet
Always leave a sorbet mix to cool completely, before putting it into an ice cream maker. Otherwise it’s just going to waste the ice block and instead of turning to sorbet, it’ll just cool down. I still can’t fathom why I poured hot sorbet mix into the ice cream maker, it defies all logic.

It also took longer than three hours to set, it was more of a granita than a sorbet after about five hours. Even the next day, it was still more of a granita than a sorbet, might just have been my idiocy though.

The recipe for this one is on some Australian website – LifeStyle FOOD.

Overall I was quite pleased with how things turned out. The bulghar pilaf was lovely and the leek fritters and their green sauce went wonderfully well with it. I think the smoky frittata would have been better on its own with the pilaf though, it just wasn’t on a par with the leek fritters and the flavours of those two, while they both went with the pilaf, don’t really work together for me. Maybe the pilaf and fritters with a side of some crushed beans, feta and za’atar with some flat breads would have been better, I might have to try that next time.

The Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake was absolutely delicious, even the kids were noshing their way through it the next day. I can see myself baking that one again and again. I’ll have to have another crack at the ginger sorbet too, but I’ll let it cool down before going in the ice cream maker next time.