The orchard’s autumn bounty


SEASONAL TREAT Toffee apples always bring smiles.

Redmond Cabot

Apple season is upon us and the boughs in our orchard are teetering. There are Coxes and Russets and Bramleys and lots of other species whose names we’ve forgotten. Some can be knobbley and oddly shaped, but the flavours and textures are great; tart, crunchy, bitter and sweet at once.

Toffee apples
The children are excited. Toffee apples are on the menu. I love them, they remind me of Enid Blyton stories and Halloween. But a word of warning – if your teeth aren’t your own, steer clear!
For four toffee apples, pop four apples in a large bowl of boiling water to remove the natural wax from the skin and encourage the toffee to stick. Push a wooden lolly stick into each fruit, arrange on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Add 200g golden caster sugar to 100ml water in a saucepan and cook for five minutes over a moderate heat, add half a teaspoon of vinegar and two tablespoons of golden syrup.
Boil to 150°C, test a little bit of toffee in a bowl of cold water, when it hardens immediately it’s ready. Twist the apple in the toffee mix, cover completely, drip off the excess, then leave to harden on the baking parchment.

Apple chutney
The blackberries are progressing nicely on the briars; Penny and Louis keep keen watch. Many are red, some have turned black already. We’re already imagining the apple and blackberry tarts and jams. The two fruits also make for a super-easy non-cook chutney for cheese and cured meats.
Take two large cooking apples, peel, core and dice. Finely chop a medium red onion. Mix in a bowl with 100g sultanas, 20 blackberries, 80 ml of red wine vinegar, 40g soft dark sugar, half a teaspoon of ground ginger and a quarter teaspoon of ground cumin. Pour into a sterilized jam jar, leave in the fridge for two days, shake once each day, then serve.

Apple Charlotte
Apple pudding is another great treat to look forward to. A ‘Charlotte’ is a molded dessert of stale bread filled with fruit, cooked in a pudding dish and served with Chantilly cream. It may have been named after England’s Queen Charlotte back in the 1770, but the French claim it as their own. Let’s eat, not argue.

Apple Charlotte
What you need

  • 450g apples, preferably half Bramley (sour), half Coxes Orange Pippins (sweet)
  • 1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar
  • 110g butter
  • 6 5mm-thick slices of white batch bread
  • 1 egg yolk

Chantilly Cream

  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons of sifted icing sugar
  • A drop of vanilla extract

What you do
Peel, core and slice the apples thinly, rinse and place in a saucepan with the sugar and 25g butter. Cook over a low heat until soft then beat into a puree. Leave to cool.
Melt the rest of the butter, and remove the bread crust then cut each slice of the bread into triangles and brush with the melted butter on both sides. Line a 570ml pudding bowl with three quarters of the bread, pressing it firmly in and leaving no gaps. Beat the egg yolk into the cooled apple puree and fill the bowl. Seal the top with the remaining slices of bread making sure it’s well pressed down and secure.
Press the lid down with something heavy (an old fashioned 900g scale weight would be ideal but use your imagination) for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 200°C and put the pudding on a baking tray and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and crisp on top.
For the Chantilly cream, whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract together till the mix forms stiff peaks. Serve. Yum!