Like them apples


RUSTIC SPICED APPLE TART

My garage is full of apples.

Yes, I now have a garage. And a house, indeed. No longer confined (even at the best of times), to our small Parisian flat, we have flown the nest and landed in what feels like a palatial mansion in the French countryside west of the city.

It’s all very strange.

I’ll spare you the details of the post lockdown move. It could have been easier, for sure. Five weeks in and I still feel a tad shellshocked. The first couple of weeks were completely overwhelming: a blur of constant childcare (no real change there); much more to do in the house than we’d originally thought; trying to snatch an hour here or there to do a botch paint job somewhere; endless trips to the overcrowded post lockdown hardware store; realising I know NOTHING about plumbing/electrics/insulation; getting to grips with not being able to just pop downstairs to the supermarket; learning to ignore the one-year-old constantly eating dirt form the garden; trying to stop the two-year-old from enticing said one-year-old down the rickety flight of wooden stairs…

It’s no surprise that the farm van from Normandy spotted me a mile off. Frazzled lady, looking confused. Just the job.

About a week after our move (and the day on which we had no electricity due to a ‘misunderstanding’ between energy providers) a nice looking man knocked on the door and said he was selling some farm produce. Ah, farm produce! The city dweller’s dream! I trotted down eagerly to his van which he opened to reveal sacks and sacks of potatoes, apples and onions.

“Madame, look at the high quality!”, cutting into a potato that did look rather fresh and delicious.

“Try our apples, we have two kinds!”, handing me a slice of a perfectly tasty red apple.

“Smell these onions, you can eat them raw!”, I politely decline to take a bite.

It all happens so quickly. He talks about half sacks of 25kg being the modest option. He shows me ‘sample’ receipts of neighbours who have exuberantly signed up for 50kg of each. He assures me they’ll keep for at least six months, under a sheet in the garage. There are a few numbers thrown around.

I am so very tired. I just want my electricity to start working.

A few minutes later, I find myself writing out a cheque for an eyewatering amount of money (I can’t even bear to confess how much it was) as his trusty assistant is already loading nearly 100kg worth of produce into my garage. It’s too late to turn back.

Off they speed up the lane, undoubtedly whooping with glee at their sale.

*********

Look, the potatoes are DELICIOUS. Roasted, mashed, in a salad, baked… And the apples are…perfectly good. We’re doing our best to work through the crates. A month later and there are a whole lotta eyes on the tatties and I’ve had to throw out a few apples. I’ll be making another batch of apple puree this weekend, and perhaps having a go at apple jelly. With all that time I have. Sadly I don’t think canned mash potato is ever going to be a thing.

A bonus to all of this is APPLE TARTS. I KNOW it’s not the season and there are plenty of other delicious fruits to be enjoying at the moment. But I’m working with what I’ve got. Surely an apple tart is always welcome? If you don’t agree, just store up the recipe for a rainy autumn day. Maybe I can post you a few apples.

Rustic spiced apple tart

20 minutes active time, 1 hour 10 minutes total time

Sweet, tender, spiced apples. Buttery, nutty pastry. The simple things will always bring joy.

As well as apples, I’ve been getting into local, wholemeal flour. There’s a mill in the next village which sells freshly ground, type 110 flour. I never would have used this for pastry before, but the baker at the mill uses theirs for all their tarts, which have been sampled and taste approved. I favour a buttery pastry mix in any case, so I think it can take the heavier flour type. It gives a nuttier taste which works wonders with the spiced apples.

* Cold unsalted butter - 80g plus 20g

* Wholemeal flour - 115g

* Green apples - 6 or 7 medium

* Maple syrup - 1/4 cup

* Cinnamon - 1 tsp

* Ground cloves - couple of pinches

* Ground nutmeg - a pinch

* Ground ginger - 1/2 tsp

* Sea salt - a few pinches

25cm tart tin

Start by making the pastry.

Cut 80g of the butter into dice sized cubes. In a mixer, pulse the butter with the flour and a pinch of salt until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add a tablespoon or so of cold water and pulse again until the dough comes together in one ball.

Press the dough together into a ball with your hands, wrap in clingfilm or a beeswax wrapper and put in the fridge to chill.

Half each apple and remove the core. Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice each apple half, keeping the apple shape in tact.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (190 non fan assisted).

Melt the maple syrup and the remaining butter in a little pan. Add the spices with a pinch of sea salt and stir to combine.

Remove the pastry from the oven and roll it out on a floured surface. The bonus about this tart is that it’s SUPPOSED to look rustic. Look at my pastry, all cracked around the edges. It’s very artistic.

Roll out the pastry so it’s big enough to fold back in on itself a little around the edges.

Lay the pastry in the centre of the tin, then arrange the apple halves over the pastry. They should be tightly packed in. You can break up some of the apple halves to fill in gaps where you need.

Drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the tart and fold the excess pastry over the top.

Bake in the oven for 35-40minutes. The apples should be tender.

Serve with something cold and creamy.

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@2016 by Lucy Rose Page