Autumnal Apples

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Who doesn’t love apples? I think they look absolutely beautiful to look at, and I never go a day without eating one. To me, they conjure up images of warm kitchens smelling of cinnamon and vanilla. Of brown sugar, blue skies and cooler mornings. I have lots of happy memories of autumn days when we lived in New York spent in the sunshine, having rides on the back of tractors and picking (and eating) as many apples as was possible (apart from the day of the poison ivy- least said about that better).  And I’m not the only one, as the good news is that more and more of us must be waking up to their charms as sales of locally produced apples are going up (in this country at least).

This is obviously the time of year to harvest apples, and to enjoy them and all of their numerous health benefits. Perhaps they might not seem as bursting with vitamins to look at as some exotic, more colourful fruit, but apples (if brought locally) have usually not been air freighted, nor have travelled so many miles. Apart from being a great sweet snack, perfect for a pick me up, they are full of insoluble fibre, and anti-oxidants to lower you cholesterol, and fight inflammation. People who eat apples have been shown to have lower levels of C- reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, whose presence in your blood suggests increases risk of heart disease and diabetes. And for all you fellow runners out there, eat one beforehand and they can even make your work out easier. This is due to the anti-inflammatory quercetin which reportedly makes more oxygen available to your lungs. I have to say, I haven’t noticed the hill outside my house getting any easier when I’ve been running on an apple, but it can’t do any harm to try. The benefits don’t stop there though, did you know that raw apple can be used in the treatment of diarrhoea? It was common knowledge when I lived in Germany, but most people elsewhere haven’t a clue you can use apples in this way. It is particularly good for young children, and honestly, it really works. You have to grate the apple, with the skin on as you need the pectin and then leave to go slightly brown for a few minutes before feeding it to your patient.

But, even if you enjoy an apple a day, at this time of year you are always going to have more than you can use. It goes without saying that you can make the ever popular apple pie, or crumble but there are other options. One of my favourite uses for any autumn fruit is to make a tart. Quick, simple and really making the best of what is available to us at this time of year. I have to say, I think all autumn desserts should be made with seasonal fruits. You can also make apple chips, far healthier and tastier (and cheaper!) than the ones you buy in the shops. Slice up your apples thinly using a mandolin, leave to soak in a sugar syrup for five minutes or so (I like to use my own rose hip syrup, the flavour goes so well with apple) then bake on baking sheets in individual layers in a lowish oven (I did mine at 150 deg. C but then again my oven isn’t quite what it was, yours might be alright a bit lower) for an hour or so, turning half way through. As long as you don’t let them get too brown (or burn!), they’ll be delicious.

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Of course, apples are essential in jam, (unless you buy sugar with pectin in it) but if you’re done with your jam making this year, cook up the rest of your apples, puree them and freeze it. You can use the puree in homemade granola, in apple Charlotte or as a fat replacement any other recipe that calls for liquid fat (so oils not butter). I particularly like mine in carrot cake, but it works equally week with muffins; the choice is yours.

Apple and Rose Hip Tart Recipe

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500g ready made puff pastry (I know, there are very few things that I buy ready made, but honestly, life is too short to be making puff pastry)

6 or so apples (depending on size)

About  2-3 tbsps syrup of your choice (I used rose hip, but a simple sugar syrup would also work, equal parts sugar to water, brought to the boil) Be careful, you don’t want it too runny.

A tbsp or so of butter.

Roll out you pastry to make a large rectangle.

Slice your apples very thinly using a mandolin or similar. Keep immersed in lemony water whilst you are getting them all ready, you don’t want any browning.

Toss the apples in your syrup.

Dot the butter over the top, and bake at 180 deg C for about 20 minutes, or until the tart is a lovely golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche. Enjoy!

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