Apples and autumn – could there be a more classic combination? Elisha Young (aka @elisha.eats on Instagram) has some ideas to help breathe new life into this old favourite
We all know the expression ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ – and nowhere is this more obvious than with the humble apple. While the beginning of strawberry, mango or peach season is hailed as a cause worthy of celebration, people are much more blasé about the arrival of apples. I’ll hazard a guess and say it’s because we’re so used to their supermarket perma-presence.
They blend into the shelves, along with eternally available bananas, oranges and grapes. With Jazz apples from New Zealand and Pink Ladies from Australia, who cares about a Bramley or Cox?
Except, you really should care. Apples are not only delicious and good for you, they’re also terrifically versatile. You can put apples in pies, crumbles, cakes, tarts, brioche, pastries, custard and puddings. And those are only the obvious examples. You can also elevate roast pork with the acidity of a good apple sauce, cut through the fatty, salty flavour of sausages by including apples, or even use them in soup. It sounds unorthodox, but carrot, parsnip, potato and butternut squash soup all benefit from the sweet-sour flavour of apples.
Above all, they really are the perfect autumn fruit, playing nicely with any number of warming spices, from cinnamon to nutmeg and even five spice (yes, really). They also caramelise beautifully – think tarte tatin – and then, of course, there’s that Bonfire Night classic: toffee apples.
Since apples are grown in the UK, we get to enjoy them at their best. In October, I visited the Ely Apple Festival and was amazed at the huge range of varieties I’d never even heard of. There was the John Standish (small, with an intense, fruity flavour), Howgate Wonder (large, firm and juicy), Lane’s Prince Albert (a sharp-tasting cooking apple) and the Greensleeves (a sweet, crisp dessert apple), among many other cultivars.
They really are the perfect autumn fruit
If you prefer juice or cider, Watergull Orchards is a family business here in Cambridgeshire, and their website (watergullorchards.co.uk) offers interesting facts and information about the different varieties they use in their products. Burwash Larder also has a great selection of apples, so definitely pay them a visit if you want to explore the autumn bounty and properly appreciate the fruit on offer. As for desserts, I’ve been lusting after Fancett’s tarte tatin, made using extremely thinly cut apple slices laid out in a beautiful pattern. And I highly recommend the apple crumble bostock from Grain Culture.
You can include apples in whatever you fancy – but my easy suggestion is hand pies. They’re incredibly quick to throw together, but are delicious (and portable!), especially when served with fresh cream.
To make the filling, chop cooking apples into small cubes and heat them in a saucepan with brown sugar, salted butter, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Cook while stirring until the fruit has softened, then spoon the mixture onto pastry. It’s easiest to use shop-bought, but I made my own rough-puff with rye flour for added flavour.
Make the hand pies whatever shape you like – square or rectangular is straightforward – and use the tines of a fork to crimp together the edges. Brush the pastry with milk, and sprinkle over a generous spoonful of demerara sugar for a satisfying crunch. After half an hour at 180°C, you’ll have something sweet, warming and nostalgic. Take a bite, and the sticky, syrupy apple filling, fragrant with cinnamon, will remind you just how lucky we are to have this delicious ingredient right on our doorstep.
Follow Elisha’s Instagram account (@elisha.eats) for more foodie content and inspiration.