Although the weather is wet and miserable there is plenty to get excited about in the kitchen, and for me this week at the top of that list is Apples!
As a nation we have over 1200 native varieties, ranging from inedible cider apples through to well known classics such as the Bramley and the Cox.
Sadly only a fraction of these apples will ever be available to you in the supermarkets, (with the aforementioned Cox and Bramley probably being the only available British apples most of the time) which I think is a real shame as there are so many amazing apples out there that will only be grown in small amounts and many that will not ever be available to buy…unless you happen to know someone with a tree in their garden and are lucky enough to be on friendly terms so you can pick to your hearts desire!
One type of apple that is rarely in the supermarkets are Russets, with their sandpapery skin and dull brown colour they are deemed not popular with consumers by the major supermarket chains. However a trip to the local farm shops or markets should prove successful with the most common russets available being the Egrement and Ashmeads Kernel.
These apples are firm, sweet and crisp, with an almost nutty flavour, not necessarily to everyone’s taste, but they are my favourite so much so that I’ve been gorging myself on them the past week! However they’re not just for eating, their firm flesh makes them perfect for the classic french dessert Tart Tatin.
The long cooking at high heat of this recipe needs an apple that retains its shape when cooked, which is why Russets are the best for the job, an apple like a Bramley would just cook into a tart puree, great for a crumble but no good for Tatin!
With its sweet buttery caramel, juicy apples and crisp pastry this is a much prized dessert and rightly so, it’s like a toffee apple, but for grownups!
Peeling the apples and leaving them to dry in the fridge for 24 hours is a great tip, they will dry out meaning your caramel will stay fudgy and not be watered down by excess liquid from the apples. They will discolour, but you will be cooking them to a golden caramel anyway so this is hardly a problem!
There is also no shame in using readymade puff pastry, however if you want to learn how to make your own there are a few places left on the Perfect Pastry course I’m running on 27th November…meanwhile here’s a great recipe for Tart Tatin, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Apple Tart Tatin
7 apples: Ideally Russets, such as Egremont or Ashmeads Kernel
200g white sugar
175g ready-made puff pastry
1. Peel, halve and core the apples, then put in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours.
2. Put the sugar into a 20cm heavy-based ovenproof frying pan along with 50ml water and leave to soak for a couple of minutes, then cook over a medium heat until golden and fudgy. Take off the heat and stir in the butter, and a pinch of salt, until well combined, then carefully arrange the apples in the pan, round-side down, bearing in mind the caramel will be very hot, and put back on the heat – you may need to cut some of the apples into smaller pieces to fill in the gaps. Cook for 5 minutes, then take off the heat and allow to cool completely.
3.Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick, and cut out a circle slightly larger than your pan. Put back into the fridge to rest.
4. Put the pastry on top of the pan and tuck in the edges around the fruit. Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden, then remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then place a plate, slightly larger than the pan, on top and then, very carefully, using oven gloves, invert the tart on to the plate. Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped cream.