Apples are so good for us and useful as a simple end to a lunch or supper. They are also wonderful in cooking. There is a distinct difference between eating apples and cooking apples when heated. I'm quite sure that most of you know that cooking apples, peeled and cored and chopped, fall into a snowy mush on cooking, whereas eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced or chopped, retain their shape in heat - unless they have been stewed for ages. Both kinds of apples are useful in savoury recipes, as well as in sweet. Apples can be delicious with smoked fish - surprising as this sounds to those who haven't tried this combination. Mix grated apples with créme fraîche and horseradish to go with smoked trout, smoked mackerel or hot-smoked salmon, and you will find it an excellent combination of tastes. Apples and cheese is a well known and mutually very complementary combination of tastes - and you can use cheeses of all types, from hard Cheddars to creamy Brie, Camembert and blue cheeses. Apples make the best chutney, I think, just beating green or under ripe tomato chutney into second place. And apple slices fried and eaten with black pudding and bacon makes a quick and good breakfast, lunch or supper.
CINNAMON CRêPES WITH CALVADOS BUTTER AND SPICED APPLE FILLING
This may sound a fiddle to make, but it really isn't. It is also quite delicious, and most convenient because the whole dish freezes very well.
For the crêpes: • 4oz/110g plain flour • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon • 1oz/28g caster sugar • 1oz/28g butter, melted • 2 large eggs • just over 1/2 pint/285ml milk and water mixed (3/4 milk, 1/4 water)
For the Calvados butter: • 4oz/110g softened butter • 4oz/110g sieved icing sugar • 4 tablespoons Calvados
For the spiced apple filling: • 8 apples - Cox's if possible • 1 tablespoon lemon juice • 2oz/55g butter • 1 teaspoon cinnamon • a grating of nutmeg • 2oz/55g soft brown sugar
To serve: • 1 tablespoon of icing sugar, sieved • four tablespoons Calvados
Mix together all the ingredients for the crêpe batter, beating really well, then leave the batter for an hour at least (you can make it up and leave it in the fridge overnight, but give it a good stir before using). Making crêpes is so much easier (and less boring) a job to do if you have two crêpe pans. If you make a lot of pancakes, it is worthwhile investing in a second one. Melt a small knob of butter in the pan till foaming, then swirling the pan with your left hand (if you are right-handed) pour in a small amount of batter to cover the bottom of the pan thinly and evenly. Cook for a few minutes, then, using a small palette knife and your fingers, turn the crêpe over and cook on the other side. Continue till the batter is all used up, and as they are made stack them on a plate, with a piece of baking parchment between each. This amount of batter makes 20 crêpes.
Next make the Calvados butter. Put the butter for this into a bowl and, with a handheld electric whisk, beat it very well, gradually adding the sieved icing sugar. Beat in the Calvados, a spoonful at a time, beating really well.
To make the filling, first peel, core and chop the apples and toss them in the lemon juice. Melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped apples, the spices and the soft brown sugar. Cook over a moderate heat for about 20 minutes, or until the apples are soft when pressed against the sides of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon.
To assemble the dish, spread each crêpe with some Calvados butter, put a rounded teaspoon of apple mixture in the middle of each, and fold into a fat parcel. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish, and arrange the stuffed crêpes in it. Cover with clingfilm and freeze, if keeping. Thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours, then reheat for 20 minutes in a moderate oven, 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4/bottom right-hand oven in a four-door Aga. Sieve a spoonful of icing sugar over the crêpes, and warm four tablespoons of Calvados. Ignite it in the saucepan and pour the flaming Calvados over the crêpes before serving them.
APPLE, CHICORY AND CELERY SALAD WITH TARRAGON CREAM
This salad makes a delicious first course in the winter months.
Serves 6 • 3 eating apples, I prefer Cox's, cored and diced • 3 heads of chicory, cut into 1in/2.5cm lengths • 6 sticks of celery, very finely sliced
For the tarragon cream: • 1 tub (10.6oz/300g) créme fraîche, full fat, preferably • several sprigs of tarragon, finely chopped • salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blend together the ingredients for the tarragon cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix together the apples, chicory and celery in a bowl and stir in the tarragon cream until everything is well blended. Serve on small plates accompanied by hot cheesy scones with poppy seeds.