AUTUMN GOLD The combination of warm spices, sweet apples and flaky pastry make apple strudel a firm favourite.
Apples are abundant this year. Ten years ago, my wife gave me six apple trees for Christmas. Over the years, we’ve added some trees. Our soil quality is an uneven mix with thick, unforgiving ‘Dobe’ or ‘Gleys’, and some of the trees never got going. Some of the trees have thrived and now produce dozens of apples each autumn. It’s a great feeling to run into the garden, grab a few apples straight from the tree or ground and, soon after, eat something completely natural and delicious.
In the mornings, porridge is often served with stewed apple. Peel and chop the apples, cook them in a saucepan with a drop of water and some honey or sugar (apples suck up the honey so it’s best to use a combination with sugar). Add a cinnamon stick to the mix, or a pinch (pinch!) of dried cinnamon. This sweet and spicy breakfast compote sets you up for the day. The stewed apple can easily transition into a tasty condiment to serve with a roast pork dinner.
Cousin Eoin, a horticulturalist and an optimist, has just bought an apple press and is now tracking down apple growers in Mayo and Sligo to supply the raw material. Completely natural, fresh apple juice is hard come by but delicious to come across. Honestly, freshly pressed apple juice is an instant reminder of why life is worth living. The vivid taste and zingy texture is an incredible and beautiful shock to the tastebuds. Bring it on, Eoin!
Anyone with a bit of space in their gardens can plant a few apple trees. Autumn and winter is the time. They look beautiful, the blossom smells amazing and the apples are free healthy gifts.
Homemade apple tart is always a winner. Granny Winifred simply used shortcrust pastry, apples, sugar and egg to glaze. I’m lazy and don’t blind bake the pastry, but when cooked on a dinner plate the base somehow is never soggy and the tart is aways a delight. Eve’s pudding, apple topped with sponge, is also fun to make. But for the wintriest of days, the King of Tarts is the Austrian apple strudel.
The procedure is a bit more complicated, so I always buy shop-bought filo pasty to compensate. Brushing melted butter between each pastry layer it makes all the difference. There are many versions of apple strudel but this one, inspired by Rick Stein, is a winner.
What you need
- 6 sheets of filo pastry
- 800g cooking apples, peeled, cored, sliced
- 100g caster sugar
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 x tbsp lemon juice
- 40g white breadcrumbs
- 100g butter
- 75g raisins
- Icing sugar for dusting the finished strudel
- Dash of rum (optional)
What you do
Soak the raisins in rum for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Mix the apples, cinnamon, lemon juice and rum-soaked raisins together. Melt 20g of butter and fry the breadcrumbs in a pan, add to the apple/cinnamon mix. Place a sheet of filo pastry on a dry, clean tea towel. Brush with melted butter, then add another layer of pastry, butter and repeat, buttering each layer till all six are in place. Leave some butter for the rolled strudel.
Arrange the apple mix along the length of the pastry, leaving around an inch of pastry free on each side. Butter the pastry edges and use the tea towel to help you roll the pastry into an oblong shape (Swiss roll-like) to enclose the pastry. Flip over onto a baking tray lined with parchment, ensuring it lands seam side is down. Butter all over and bake for around 40-45 minutes.
Allow the strudel to cool, then dust with sieved icing sugar and serve with whipped cream.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.