Autumn apple tarts

Sunflower2Autumn brings blue skies and a chill to the mornings, falling leaves and ripening apples, ready to pluck from the trees. Some years there are few apples. A late spring frost, too little summer rain or countless other factors can leave the trees full of leaf but short on fruit. This year is a good year though. If anything too many apples. Bags of apples have been given away to friends and family. There are still more on the trees, but those that don’t end up in the kitchen will be eaten by hungry blackbirds searching for an easy meal as the days grow shorter and colder.AutumnThere are endless ways to use the apples… some are eaten straight from the tree, others are added to salads or used to make pies, crumbles and cakes. This recipe for savoury apple tarts combines some warming autumnal flavours – slow cooked onions, fresh chillies, the last of the fresh tarragon leaves, nutmeg and, of course, apple.TartsThe tarts are easy to make. They’re good with a buttery jacket potato for a hot meal on a cool evening, or for lunch with a salad when you get one of those beautiful sunny autumn days. You can make your own pastry, or save time and use a good quality ready made shortcrust pastry. The filling measurements don’t need to be too precise… add more chilli if you like the heat, more tarragon for a stronger aniseed flavour – or use parsley or sage instead.

I was just about to post this recipe when I saw Steve’s apple and rosemary tartlets over at The Circus Gardener’s Kitchen… they look very good. So if, like me, you have a lot of apples to cook with,  you might want to hop over there and try Steve’s recipe too.

table2

Autumn apple tarts

Makes 4 small tarts (9cm diameter)

For the pastry –

150g plain flour

a pinch of salt

75g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge

4-5 tbsp icy cold water, just enough to bring the pastry together

For the filling –

5g unsalted butter

1/2 medium onion, fairly finely chopped

red chilli, finely chopped, to taste

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

a good grating of nutmeg

1 apple, cored and chopped into fairly small pieces

30g Cheddar cheese, grated

2 tbsp extra thick double cream

Make the pastry first – put the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt and stir to combine. Grate the butter into the flour, then use your fingers to gently distributed the butter evenly through the flour. Add the water, a little at a time, and mix until the pastry comes together. You’re looking to use as little water as possible. Wrap the pastry in a piece of greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180oC, 350F, gas 4.

While the oven is heating and the pastry is cooling, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and chilli, turn the heat down slightly and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft. Stir the onion occasionaly to keep it from sticking or browning.

Remove the cooked onion from the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Stir in the apple, Cheddar and cream. Set aside.

Take the pastry from the fridge. Divide it into four equal pieces. Roll each piece out on a floured surface.and use to line a small tart tin. Divide the filling between the four tart tins, spreading it out to fill the pastry case.

Bake the tarts in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is golden brown on top and the pastry is just starting to brown.

Pull up a chair, help yourself to a coffee…

Coffee cup

…welcome to a curious table. Now that you’re here, can I cut you a slice of cake?

Cake and fork

It was a couple of weeks ago now that I went to a local food swap. I took along some homemade bread, some apples and some home grown veg. I came away with apple crumble, delicious chocolate cupcakes, cheese scones and a jar of oven dried pears. The crumble, cupcakes and scones quickly disappeared, but two weeks on I was still looking at the jar of dried pears and wondering what to do with them.

What would you do?

Cake is usually a good option. I used to make a pear loaf with dried pears soaked in Earl Grey tea, but couldn’t find the recipe. Instead I’ve adapted a recipe for fruited gingerbread from an old and trusted recipe book, adding pears and some dark chocolate. Pears, ginger and chocolate make a pretty good flavour combination. We like to have a slice of this cake with a cup of strong coffee. But if that’s not your thing, try it with a cup of tea… or a glass of red wine.

Cake

Pear, Ginger & Chocolate Cake

100g unsalted butter

100g soft light brown sugar

100g black treacle

200g plain flour

1½ tsp ground ginger

50g dried pears, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes then chopped (retain the soaking water)

2 knobs stem ginger in syrup, fairly finely chopped

50g dark chocolate, chopped

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp milk

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing –

50g icing sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 170oC, 325F, gas 3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Put the butter, sugar and treacle into a small pan and heat gently to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir to combine, then stir in the chopped pears, ginger and chocolate. Pour the butter mixture into the bowl, along with the egg and 3 tbsp of the water used to soak the dried pears. Mix all the ingredients until there’s no dry flour left.

In a small bowl mix the milk and bicarbonate of soda, then immediately mix this into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the baked cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with the lemon juice. Spoon the icing onto the cake and smooth it over the top.

The cake keeps well in an airtight container, in fact the flavour gets better after a couple of days – if you can leave it alone that long.