Apples and Autumn

This time of year is Harvest-festival time; Friday was Michaelmas.

According to British folklore, Michaelmas is the end of the blackberry season. An old story about how, when St Michael threw Satan out of heaven, Satan landed in a blackberry bush. Satan cursed the blackberries; he stamped, spat and urinated on them, thus making them unfit for consumption.

I was going to write about my first chocolate trip since July, which was to Haiti, with an 80% bar from Waitrose, but I can’t now remember how it tasted. Well, certainly. It had the bitterness of cacao; it melted smoothly on the tongue, and snapped cleanly. I don’t recall the underlying flavours. I’ll have to return.

Apples

So, instead, it’s apples. Home-grown, windfallen Bramleys. We went home at the beginning of September, and returned with about 25lbs of apples. They filled two and a half carriers. A few went bad and were thrown, but I stewed the rest. Had a crumble and Belgian hot lightening pie out of the first lot, with two extra servings set aside for freezing; another crumble and three more servings from the second lot.

Last year, we basically lived on apple cake and crumble for a month. This year, I’ve frozen it.

I tried something different for the second stewing. I found a recipe for Swedish apple cake, in the ScandiKitchen recipe book, which calls for apples stewed with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Swedish apple cake is one of the best apple cakes I know, so I thought I’d try stewing the apples in this manner. I already had a couple of servings of normal stewed apples, anyway.

I’m glad I’ve got three lots of spare cinnamon apples. So delicious. I’m saving one lot for my Christmas cake this year.

 

(Almost) According to Hummingbird: Muesli Bar

I was looking for something vaguely virtuous, something I could, perhaps, easily take to work to nibble at lunch-time. Something which wasn’t a sandwich, and which wasn’t full of sugar, and wasn’t really flapjack.

What I found was this recipe for a Muesli bar in one of my Hummingbird Bakery recipe books. It involved oats and cornflakes and dried fruits and nuts and seeds, and quite a lot of sugar, if I’m honest. It wanted about 240ml of golden syrup AND about 240g of sugar. Bit much, if you ask me. So I switched the both out with a large-ish splurge of black treacle. Still sweet (ish) but not quite as sweet as it would have been.

Muesli Bar

Apparently, though, Mark doesn’t like treacle (I did know this; I forgot) so I need not have been so nice as to switch out the raisins for something else. I also skipped the cornflakes, having bought a box of Morrisons’ own brand. I’ll have to think of something else to do with them.

So basically, I ended up with some fairly virtuous flapjack, being butter and treacle, with oats, desiccated coconut, apricots, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and pecans. According to the recipe, it didn’t need baking. I think if I made it again, I probably would bake it. It’s quite melty and sticky otherwise.

And then I decided that so much virtue was too much, and melted down some old and needing-to-be-used-up chocolate to pour over the top.

Sigh. I tried with the virtue.

Banana Flapjack

I am hugely fond of flapjack. I like to think of it as finger-food porridge, the sort you can eat cold. And since porridge is so good for you, therefore so is flapjack.

I’ve been taking good-sized chunks with work for lunch – I can’t be doing with making sandwiches every morning. With flapjack, I make a big batch at the beginning of the week and then grab a bit before I go. I try to make it a bit healthier by using treacle and dark brown sugar, but even so, I’m still aware that it could be better. (I’d say ‘guiltily aware’ except I try not to associate foods with guilt or virtue. I just enjoy my food and eat as best I can.)

So this week, I dug out a recipe I found a few years ago for a no-added-sugar flapjack recipe. That, and I had a bunch of bananas sitting in the fruit bowl, for some reason not being eaten. Just ripening.

Banana Flapjack

It’s a nice recipe, easily adapted.

The basic recipe is 2-3 ripe bananas, smooshed, 80ml olive oil, 2 cups of oats, and a splash of vanilla extract. Mix it all up and let it sit for a few minutes, then bake for about 20 mins at 175C.

I chucked in some glace cherries, candied peel, and desiccated coconut.

(Almost) According to Mary Berry: Mincemeat

Sometimes it happens that not all of one’s careful preparation can defeat the Real World.

My NaNo attempt continues to fail apace, and this week my careful planning for this blog also fell apart. Instead, I have Christmas plans afoot, starting with mincemeat, which I admittedly made a few weeks ago. The stitching of Christmas cards, though, has yet to begin. What’s that saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions?

Anyway, because of Mark’s aversion to dried grapes of any variety, normal mincemeat and mince-pies are out of the question. So this year I thought I’d make my own and dug up a recipe from Mary Berry.

And substituted the 525g of raisins, sultanas, and currants for blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and pears.

Mincemeat: Mary Berry

Really, a very simple recipe.

Put: 700g of various dried fruit (those above plus cranberries and some glace ginger), 100g mixed peel, 1 cooking apple, 125g butter/suet/cacao butter, 50g chopped almonds, 225g brown sugar, spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mixed spices), and the juice and rind of a lemon or lime in a big saucepan and heat gently until the butter/suet is melted. Simmer very gently for about 10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely, then stir in 200ml of your preferred alcohol: brandy, rum, sherry, mead. I used some Jack Daniels Winter Spice stuff.

Spoon into sterilised jars and keep in a cool place for up to 6 months. The sort of Christmas preparation you can do well in advance.

You should get about 4-5 normal sized sorts of jars out of this recipe.

(Almost) According to Someone: Apple Crumble

This time of year is apple-picking, cider-making season, for fruit just off the trees, and apples don’t get tastier than that.

At no other time of the year, do apples taste as good as they do from the end of August to the middle of October.

It’s also the time of year when that wonderful pudding we call a crumble really comes into its own. It seems in recent years to have been supplanted by the pie, which is a shame, if you ask me, because for a proper pudding, with a dollop of cream, a spoon or two of ice cream, or a splurge of custard, you can’t beat the humble crumble. And a pie isn’t really a pudding, which, for me, invokes thoughts of farmhouse baking, and pies should be savoury. Don’t get me wrong, I’m partial to sweet pies too, but crumble beats pastry any day.

And apple crumble is probably the best sort of crumble.

photograph to follow. Technology not working.

This recipe was collected at some point while I was still at school – I have vague recollections of making it in cooking-class. I also have recollections of arguing with my teacher about how to make it. She wanted me to stew the apples first, I wanted to just use slices. I still prefer my crumble to have sliced apple rather than stewed. Partly laziness, partly because that’s how my mother used to make it. Life’s too short for stewing…

Anyway.

You’ll need:

2 Bramley (or other cooking) apples, peeled and sliced (I didn’t peel them)

75g butter

125g sugar

150g self-raising flour

Soak the sliced apples in salty water for a few minutes, then drain and spread in your baking dish and bake them for about 10 minutes. 180C should be about right.

To make the crumble, mix the butter, sugar and flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Pour over the top of the apples. Maybe sprinkle some extra sugar on top. I was taught to trace a snail-swirl in the top, but that’s optional.

Bake until it smells ready, or about 20 minutes.

Serve with cream, ice cream or custard.

And never mind about granola for breakfast – this cold! So much tastier than granola or cereal.

(Almost) According to Sainsbury’s: Bread and Ham Pudding

As with odd lengths of threads left over from cross-stitch kits, it’s impressive how collections of recipes and recipe books gather. And then usually gather dust.

It must be admitted that most of my collection has something to do with chocolate, but I have also managed to collect a large number of those give-away recipes that supermarkets use to inspire or to get you to buy some new and expensive ingredient.

Some of you may remember back before I was Gainfully Employed full-time, with my series of Delia recipes. Sadly, I have not the time to bake every week, and it is difficult to balance the desire for cake with the desire not to get too fat (because I’m too lazy for exercise), so I haven’t made any Delia cakes recently (but watch out for the Christmas cake in a month or so). But I thought that the (Almost) According to…series might be revived, for these other recipes, since most of them are main meals, and Mark and I have finally decided to try them all and (oh shock! Oh horror!) get rid of the ones we don’t like. And those we do, can be written into a recipe-journal, and the original also got rid of.

This week, a savoury take on the good old Bread and Butter Pudding.

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Served with salad, as per the suggestion, but without artful placing. Because Life’s too short.

It’s quite simple: layers of bread and ham, with a handful of spinach, slices of mozzarella, and maybe slices of tomato, drenched in a milk and egg mix (4 eggs to half a pint of milk and seasoning to taste).

DSCN1679

Okay, I’ll be honest, we used chicken, not ham, and skipped the tomato. Neither of us are particularly keen on slices of tomato.

And then bake for about half an hour.

As meals go, we gave it a 5/10. It was all right, a bit bland, a bit too much like omelette and bread mush, but omelettes taste better, and not nearly filling enough for an evening meal. It might have been better if the bread had been buttered, and it’s an excellent way to use up bread, milk and eggs, but our final verdict was that it isn’t good enough to make its way into the recipe book.

Simple Raspberry Fairy-Cakes

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It was one of those moments when I really wanted cakes, but hadn’t the energy to do anything very complicated. An unfortunate side-effect of two six-day weeks. I’ll be so glad when the Boss-Man returns and I no longer have to be in charge.

But I really needed cakes. Or cookies.

So I had a rummage in my cupboards, and these were the result. The icing’s a sort of glace icing, but with some white chocolate powder as well.

For the Cakes:

100g softened butter

100g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

2 tbsps raspberry jam

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to about 180C.

Cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the raspberry jam. Fold in the flour and vanilla essence, then stir in the milk.

Spoon into fairy-cake cases and bake for about twenty minutes.

Allow to cool (if you can wait that long) and ice as desired.

Honestly, it only takes about half an hour from start to finish.