BY ANASTASIA CHOO
Is there anything that feels more nostalgic or autumnal than a basket of freshly picked apples? Each year in October a friend brings me an abundant mix of Cox’s Orange Pippins, Worcester Pearmain and Egremont Russets from her orchard to celebrate a delicious harvest. As an apple grower she is aware that traditional English apples are in danger of becoming some dwindling heritage curiosities, ousted from supermarkets by the Antipodean Four – Gala, Braeburn, Jazz and Pink Lady.
The problem is that with supermarkets supplying most of our fruit and home-grown produce having to compete with cheaper imported goods such as the Antipodean Four – compliant in shape and size to the requirements of conveyor belts and moulded polystyrene boxes – these are what we have come to expect an apple to be.
Our over-exposure to sugar has numbed our taste buds sufficiently for only the sweetest of fruits to satisfy us and consumers will not contemplate buying an apple that is less than perfect in shape and texture.
This makes me cross because apples are the quintessential English fruit – after all English and apple are two words that go together as naturally as sugar and spice. They have been around for long enough with the oldest English apple, the Pearmain, recorded in a Norfolk document of 1204. Henry VIII established the first large-scale orchard in Teynham, Kent and we’ve been growing them enthusiastically since.
In 1990 Common Ground a collective of growers started Apple Day on 21st October in Covent Garden, London to celebrate the hundreds of English apple varieties which are ignored in favour of a handful of supermarket-friendly strains. It has since been established as an annual celebration up and down the country for growers to turn a profit from the fruiting weeks. Celebrations vary in size from minor to full blown village fairs – you could start by checking out which Apple Day events are going on near your home.
Being a British farmer is a tricky business (despite the boost they have received from cider’s increase in popularity) and it is our responsibility to support them and protect our country’s ancient apple varieties, no matter how knobbly and unusual they are.
Finally, our culinary history would be poorer without this staple fruit, arriving in late summer and happy in cold store until well into the following spring. To celebrate Apple Day, I am sharing a very easy apple recipe which always impresses at dinner parties. Enjoy!
Baked Autumn Apple Roses
- 3 red apples
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 puff pastry sheet
- 50g melted butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- Icing sugar to sprinkle
(Preparation: 15 mins Cook: 45 mins Ready in: 1 hour)
- Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4 / 180 degrees C. Generously butter 6 individual ramekins.
- Cut apples in half. Remove core and thinly slice. Put apple slices on a plate, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and cook in the microwave in 45 second periods until slices have softened a little bit. Remove, let drain over kitchen paper and let cool down.
- Roll puff pastry to 3mm thickness. With the help of a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut 6 rectangular strips.
- Brush with the melted butter. Place apple slices along 1 long edge of pastry, about top half beyond edge of pastry, overlapping slices slightly.
- Mix together the cinnamon and caster sugar and sprinkle over apple and pastry.
- Fold bottom half of pastry over the apple slices, with rounded edges of apple slices exposed. Brush with the beaten egg and starting from one end, roll pastry not too tightly to form a rose-shaped pastry.
- Place each apple rose gently in the ramekins and place on a baking tray.
- Bake in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and dust with icing sugar right before serving.
Hint: To avoid soggy roses, dry up the apple slices on kitchen paper before assembling. You can also gently adjust or pull rose petals/apple slices with tongs if needed after baking if they need to look just perfect.