Claire Macdonald conjures up two dishes full of flavour using the humble but versatile garden fruit.
It’s hard to believe that it is the start of the season for apples and pears – the months seem to whizz by and it seems scarcely possible that the season for berries and stonefruit is receding while our British-grown apples and pears are coming on to the market.
I love our seasons. From a culinary aspect, they keep us, the cooks among us, on our toes. And all foods in the same season seem to complement each other, such as apples.
I am talking about eating apples as opposed to cooking apples which behave completely differently when cooked. They are very good in a savoury capacity to complement the flavours of game and fish, as well as other seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Apples are as widely useful in a savoury capacity than in the more usually associated sweet recipes.
Both cooking and eating apples are useful. Cookers are my apple of choice for making into sauces just because they obligingly form the texture of the sauce.
I use diced onions fried moderately to a softness, with grated lemon rind and horseradish to make an apple sauce for eating with pork, ham or smoked fish. And it freezes very well, too.
But sliced eating apples are good for a stir fry, combining with leeks and ginger, or in a sauce for pheasant or chicken.
Eating apples can form the crunch and therefore texture contrast for salads. And salads are for year-round dining, both for delicious eating as well as their nutritional benefits.
I always aim for British grown, because we have a duty to support our own farmers and our species of apples are better than those from any other
My choice is for Cox’s, or Worcester Pearmain, or Russet varieties. And of the new varieties? I quite like Gala, or Pink Lady, but they are not as good as the old varieties I have mentioned.
Many recipes containing apples call for the apples to remain unpeeled, which is good, because that provides more fibre.
Here are two recipes, both for savoury use, making the most of our superb apples.
Apple, chicory and celery salad with parsley cream
- 3 eating apples, washed, dried, quartered and cored, and then evenly diced
- 3 heads of chicory, trimmed and cut into approx. 1cm lengths
- 6 sticks of celery, each trimmed at either end, then peeled to remove the stringy bits – I use a potato peeler – then chopped approx. into 1cm lengths
For the parsley cream:
- A good handful of parsley, either flat-leaf or curly parsley, tough stalks removed, the parsley chopped quite finely
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche, either full fat or reduced fat, whichever you prefer
- Finely grated rind of ½ lemon
- Salt, and black pepper to your taste, I suggest about ½ tsp salt and 12-15 grinds of black pepper
- Put the chopped apples, chicory and celery into a bowl.
- In a separate bowl combine the finely chopped parsley, creme fraiche, grated lemon rind, salt and pepper and mix well. Mix this into the contents of the salad bowl.
- This salad can be a very good first course, especially when served with hot herb scones or cheese scones.
Claire says: “This very simple salad is packed with nutrition and at the same time is so very good to eat. I make it to accompany any cold meat, or game, throughout the winter months. Use any chicory you like, the most usually found is Belgian chicory, the white/pale green variety.”
Pork fillet with cream, brandy and apples
For the fillets:
- 3 pork fillets, each trimmed of fat or membrane, each rubbed with salt and black pepper just before frying in a large pan to brown all over
For the sauce:
- 3 eating apples, washed, quartered, cored and sliced, each quarter into 3 slices
- Drizzle of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
- 50g butter
- 1 level tsp medium strength curry powder
- 150ml brandy
- 300ml double cream
- 1 level tsp salt
- 15 grinds of black pepper
- Handful of finely chopped parsley to sprinkle over just before serving
To make the fillets:
- Put the browned fillets into a roasting tin, loosely covered with kitchen paper.
Roast, covered, in a moderate heat, 160C Fan/180C/350F/ Gas Mark 4, for 25-30 minutes.
- Take the fillets from the oven, and leave them to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting each into thick slices. Put the slices into a warmed bowl, loosely covered, in a warm place while you make the sauce:
To make the sauce:
- Sprinkle lemon juice over the apple slices, do this in advance by more than half an hour.
- In a wide frying or saute pan heat the oil and melt the butter together.
- Fry the sliced apples for several minutes, until they are just soft.
- Add the curry powder and cook for a few seconds. Add the brandy and let it boil.
- Then add the double cream, salt and black pepper, and let the cream bubble – as it is double cream, as it bubbles it thickens the sauce.
- Pour the contents of this pan over the sliced cooked pork fillets. Scatter the finely chopped parsley over, just before serving.
Claire says: “This is rich and delicious, simple to make, and can be the main course for any special occasion.”