Stewed Apples and Plums

Stewed apples and plums with natural yogurt and ground cinnamon
Just a quick little recipe today, but very much in-keeping with the autumnal theme. Stewing is a great way to use up a large batch of fruit, and means that the fruit keeps well for much longer than it normally would. At this time of year, gluts of apple are a common occurrence and we picked an enormous crop from my grandparents’ cooking apple tree last month. Although I used some of the apples in my mini puff pastry apple pies and a couple for a savoury apple sauce with roast pork belly, most have been used in three separate batches of my mum’s simple recipe for stewed apples. In the final lot I also had some plums in the fruit bowl which hadn’t ripened well, but are absolutely perfect once they’ve been lightly stewed. You can make this without the plums, using just apples, or you could add some pears, or even a handful of blackberries right at the end. Lovely autumnal fare.

Note: this recipe makes a very large quantity, so adjust depending on how much you want or how much fruit you have.
Ingredients for stewed apples and plums
Ingredients
1.35kg fruit (I used about 900g cooking apples, and 450g plums)
550ml water
340g sugar
2 handfuls of raisins

Method
1. Peel and core the apples, then cut into small chunks. De-stone the plums and slice into eighths.
Chopping cooking apples and plums
Chopped plums and cooking apples
2. Heat the water and sugar until boiling.
Boiling water and sugar for stewed fruit
3. Add the apple, plums and raisins and bring back to the boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave to cool.
Adding fruit to the sugar syrup
Stewed apples and plums
There are lots of options for your stewed fruit now, depending on how big a batch you’ve made! Use immediately while still warm, or leave to cool in the pan and then transfer to a tupperware tub…
Cooled stewed fruit
This will now keep in the fridge for at least a week, or in the freezer for a few months. The fruit can be spooned over porridge or cereals for breakfast…
Stewed fruit with granola for breakfast
…or topped with natural yogurt and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon either for a light breakfast or a filling snack…
Stewed apples and plums with natural yogurt and ground cinnamon
…of course, the options are endless. Re-heat gently and spoon over vanilla ice-cream, use to top meringues and cream similar to what I did with my spiced rhubarb compote, or smash the meringues up with the fruit and cream to create an autumnal Eton Mess.

Meatloaf

Homemade meatloaf
It’s officially autumn. October has arrived, bringing with it darker mornings, clock changes, early Halloween decorations and the need for extra layering and a big, cosy scarf. We can complain about the weather and the darker mornings, but in the world of food there’s a lot to celebrate. Apples, figs, plums, pears, pomegranate, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale, leeks, parsnips and much more are in season and I’m hoping to pack in as many recipes as possible involving seasonal produce over the next few months. I’ve already planned some recipes involving apples, plums and carrots which I’ll post soon, but there will be plenty more to come.

Dreary weather and dark nights are also a perfect excuse for good old-fashioned comfort food. Again, I have a few recipes in mind to share with you, but we’ll kick things off with an absolute classic: meatloaf. I had never made meatloaf before, but after constant (unsubtle) hints from my other half (who never stops talking about his Grandmother’s meatloaf) I caved. I used this recipe from BBC Good Food, adding some extra ingredients for even more flavour like apple, mustard and thyme. Reviews after eating concluded that it was “very nearly as good as Grandma’s”, so I guess I’ll take that as a success…
Ingredients for homemade meatloaf
Ingredients (cuts into 8-10 slices)
2 slices stale white bread
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 apple
Small bunch of parsley
500g pork mince
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp grated parmesan
1 egg
8-10 slices of serrano ham or prosciutto

Method
1. Look out a 1.5 litre loaf tin and preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/Gas Mark 5.
2. Cut the stale bread into small chunks and blitz in a blender or food processor until you have fine breadcrumbs.
Chopped stale bread for breadcrumbs
Homemade bread crumbs
3. Finely chop the onion, garlic, parsley and grate the apple. You can also do this with a food processor if you have one – use the chopping blade for the onion, garlic and parsley, and then the grater attachment for the apple.
Chopped ingredients for homemade meatloaf
4. Mix together the pork mince, chopped ingredients, bread crumbs, parmesan, mustard, dried herbs and egg.
Meatloaf filling ingredients
Meatloaf filling ingredients
5. Line the loaf tin with the ham, overlapping each slice a little so there are no gaps. Leave about a third of the slice to overhang the edges of the tin.
Lining a loaf tin with serrano ham for homemade meatloaf
6. Spoon the meatloaf mixture into the tin and press down firmly.
Filling the lined meatloaf
7. Fold the excess ham over the top of the meatloaf so that it’s entirely encased.
Wrapping the meatloaf in serrano ham
8. Place the loaf tin in a roasting tray and fill with boiling water to about halfway. Cook in the oven for 1 hour until the loaf has shrunk from the sides. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 or 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid and lift the meatloaf out.
Wrapping the meatloaf in serrano ham
Cooked meatloaf
Serve either warm or cold. The first night we had it for Sunday dinner hot from the oven, with a homemade tomato sauce and steamed vegetables. After storing in the fridge we ate the remainder of the loaf cold, served with baked potatoes and a salad.
Homemade meatloaf
Sunday dinner of meatloaf, homemade tomato sauce, steamed potatoes and vegetables
What are your favourite comfort foods for autumn nights? Are there any recipes you’d like to see next…?

Mini puff pastry apple pies

Mini puff pastry apple pies with homemade pastry
The days are getting a little shorter, the temperature has dropped a noticeable few degrees and a few tell-tale leaves are already turning brown. It’s all pointing to the inevitable fact that Autumn is creeping up on us. Perhaps we still have a few more warm September days to come, but if not we have lots to look forward to: cold mornings with hot porridge, crisp afternoons with a bowl of soup or a steaming mug of hot chocolate and evenings wrapped in a blanket while tucking in to a hearty stew or a slice of pumpkin pie. Although eating apples aren’t quite ripe yet, the cooking apple tree at my grandparents’ house was laden with a huge crop of fruit. At the weekend we helped strip the tree bare, ending up with buckets and boxes and bags of cooking apples. A traditional apple pie made with short crust pastry is a beautiful thing, but here is something just a little bit different – miniature individual apples pies made with puff pastry.

I’ve been planning to share a recipe for puff pastry with you for a while now, and pastry week on Great British Bake Off seemed like the perfect timing. Puff pastry is a scary beast for most people, and we always hear chefs telling us not to bother making it from scratch, but to buy the ready-made pastry available in the shops. Now there’s nothing wrong with using shop-bought puff pastry – it’s relatively cheap, easy to store and use and cuts down cooking by a reasonable amount of time – and I often do so. However, “rough puff pastry” is actually very, even surprisingly, straightforward to make. Granted, “proper puff pastry” is a little more complicated, but this quicker version below produces beautifully light, flaky, buttery pastry.
Ingredients for mini puff pastry apple pies
Ingredients (makes 12 individual pies)
190g flour
Pinch of salt
125g chilled butter, cut into cubes
100ml iced water
400g cooking apples (about 4 small apples)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6 and lightly butter a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. Add the butter to the flour and salt and mix to coat.
Chilled and cubed butter and flour
3. Add 10 tbsp of the iced water, stirring with a knife to roughly combine. Add a little extra water if the mixture seems much too dry, but don’t worry that the mixture doesn’t come together completely – you need to be able to gather the mixture together with your hands, but you don’t want it to be wet.
Adding iced water to the puff pastry mix
4. Flour a surface and tip the pastry out, forming into a rough rectangle with your hands.
Making puff pastry - gathering the ingredients together
5. Gently roll the rectangle longer. Again, don’t be scared if the mixture cracks a little at this point, it will become smooth soon.
Making puff pastry - the first roll
6. Fold the top third down on itself, and the bottom third up over this.
Making puff pastry - folding down the top third
Making puff pastry - folding up the bottom third
7. Turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat this process of rolling and folding. Repeat a total of 4 or 5 times, until you have a lovely smooth block of pastry. Wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 15 minutes while you make the filling. (If chilling for longer, leave it in the fridge and take out 10 minutes before you need to roll, so that it’s not too hard. This pastry can be frozen if you want to store for another day.)
Making puff pastry - the pastry after 4 or 5 roll-and-fold processes
8. Peel, core and chop the apples into very chunks. Mix together with the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
Apple pie filling flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla
9. Remove the pastry from the freezer and roll out to a half centimetre thickness on a well-floured surface. Move quickly at this point, since the high butter content of the pastry will make it sticky and hard to work with if it gets too warm. Use a pastry cutter to cut 12 circles of pastry and gently press them into the buttered tin. Fill with a large spoon of the apples.
Filling the mini apple pies with the cinnamon and vanilla apple mixture
10. Dab a little egg around the edges of the pastry using a pastry brush to help stick the pie tops and bottoms together. Cut another 12 circles of pastry, lay them over the filling and gently press round the edges with a fork. Brush egg over the tops of the pies and make two small cuts on the top of each pie with a sharp knife to allow any steam to be released from the pies during cooking.
Mini puff pastry apple pies ready to be baked
11. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Cooling the mini puff pastry apple pies
Cooling the mini puff pastry apple pies on a wire rack
These can be eaten warm from the oven, or you can let them cool completely and then reheat them at 180C for about 5 minutes. They will keep in an air-tight container for a couple of days.
Mini puff pastry apple pies with homemade pastry
Mini puff pastry apple pie
Serve these with cream or ice-cream for dessert, or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. This is also how I usually make mince pies at Christmas time, replacing the apples with mincemeat, but for now miniature apple pies seem like the best way to celebrate the fact that Autumn has really arrived.