Autumn 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.There 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.The 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.
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.