Apples – Choosing, using and cooking

Photo credit Snapwire

Apples are a fruit I grew up eating and cooking with. I can vividly remember learning to make apple crumble and baked apples in high school cooking classes. And at home apple tart was one of my mother’s signature dishes. Growing up as I did in Ireland, and then Australia, apples were plentiful and affordable for family budgets.

Apples are an ancient fruit with dozens of different varieties to choose from across the world and are one of the fruits most commonly eaten au natural. Although they require no work to enjoy them at their best, they can be cooked and complemented with other flavours to create apple pie, sauces, baked apples or apple crumble.

Choosing

When buying apples look for a firm, unbruised fruit with an even colour and pleasant smell. The many varieties of apples all have different seasons, starting from summer through to spring. And as they are grown in so many different areas it is tricky to say which variety is the best at any time. Your best bet is to ask your greengrocer for a recommendation. There is nothing worst then getting a bag of apples home and discovering they are floury, too sweet or too tart. Apples are best from late summer to early spring.

Storing

Decay will spread quickly so if you are storing a lot of apples check them regularly to ensure that one bad apple is not spreading mould to others. Small quantities can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 weeks depending on variety and the temperature of the room.

Apple Tarte Tatin

This is without a doubt the most incredible upside-down apple pie experience you’re ever likely to have. Ideally you need a 22 cm Le Creuset or deep-sided cast iron pan for this recipe. If you have neither of these, cook apples in a heavy-based frying pan, then tip them into a similar-sized pie dish and top with pastry.

1 piece of puff pastry, approx 25 x 25 cm

75 g butter

150 g caster sugar

4 granny smiths apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths

Egg wash

Preheat oven to 190°C.

Heat pan over a medium–high heat, add butter and sugar and cook for 8–10 minutes, stirring constantly. Cook until sugar and butter have cooked to a golden caramel colour.

Carefully add the apple pieces, watch out for splashes and cook for just 2–3 minutes, stirring or tossing the pan to coat apples with caramel. The apples will begin to release their juice and stop caramel overcooking.

Set the pan aside to cool a little. Either leave apple in the pan you cooked them in or transfer to a 22 cm pie dish. Place pastry over apples and tuck down the sides to completely cover apples, and then trim excess away.

Brush pastry with egg wash and place in preheated oven.

Cook for 20–25 minutes, or until pastry is risen, golden brown and cooked. Remove from oven.

To serve, place a large plate or platter over pan or pie dish. Then, using oven gloves or tea towels, tip pan over and remove it, leaving apples on top and pastry on the bottom.

Take care, as this is very hot.

Serve immediately with thick cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6.