Bite into autumn with Apple, James Rich’s new cookbook, plus a round-up of favourite food bloggers’ best seasonal apple-based recipes.

Newly crisp leaves are browning, a nip has stolen into the air and the world is slowly turning golden: signs of the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness are, by now, hard to miss. And just as the landscape becomes impossibly beautiful, so too does it step into its most bountiful period. Autumn heralds juicy blackberries, often found resiliently growing wild even in the most unlikely spots, rich, juicy and ripe for the picking; it brings the low-hanging plump and painterly plum; but best of all, it brings us the humble apple.

Too often, the unassuming apple is thought of as a sensible substitute for something more enticing. The disappointing words, ‘have an apple instead,’ are well-known to any child badgering their parents for chocolates or sweets, but, in truth, the apple is a wonderfully versatile thing. It can be delicate and complement savoury dishes; it can be spiced, for warmth as temperatures drop; and it can be sweet or sharp; tangy and refreshing.

As the son of a cider-maker, the Somerset-born and bred James Rich knows all this better than most. His new and simply titled cookbook Apple: Recipes from the Orchard is a joyful celebration of the fruit in all its many forms, from the traditional to the inventive; from sweet and savoury treats to apple-based drinks (the latter somewhat naturally, given his heritage). The discovery of some old family recipes nudged James to delve deeper, and Apple speaks of his love affair with this most adaptable of fruits, a love built over a lifetime watching the family orchard grow before harvesting its rewards.

The book is packed with easy recipes, but our stand-out favourites are these beautifully balanced sweet-meets-savoury goat’s cheese, apple and honey tarts. And since an apple a day is famously fabled to keep the doctor away, it’s a winner on every front.

Apple by James Rich, from Hardie Grant, £20 Photography ©Jacqui Melville

Goat’s cheese, apple and honey tarts

It’s best to use a sweet apple for this recipe to complement the tanginess of the cheese, so try a Braeburn or Royal Gala instead of Granny Smith or Cox’s. You can either bake this as individual tarts – as I have done – or as a traybake, in which case just roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle.

Makes 10
Prep 25 mins
Cook 30–40 mins

– 75 g (2½ oz) unsalted butter
– 1 onion, thinly sliced
– ½ sprig of rosemary, leaves
removed and finely chopped
– 2 x 320 g (10¼ oz) packs
of ready-made puff-pastry
– a little plain (all-purpose)
flour, for dusting
– 1 egg, beaten

For the cheese topping
– 200 g (7 oz) goat’s cheese
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
– salt and freshly ground
– black pepper
– 4 crisp eating (dessert)
– apples, such as Braeburn,
peeled, cored and sliced
– pinch of ground allspice
– 4 tablespoons runny honey
micro purple basil

1. Preheat a fan oven to 180°C (350°F/gas 6) and line a large baking sheet with
baking parchment.
2. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat and melt half the butter. Add the
onion and rosemary and fry until the onion begins to brown. Leave to one side.
3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 5 mm (¼ in) thick.
4. Using a round, 10 cm (4 in) biscuit (cookie) cutter, cut out 20 rounds. Place
10 on the prepared baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.
5. Make pastry rings by cutting smaller rounds into the remaining 10 pieces
of pastry using a 9 cm (3½ in) biscuit cutter. Then, take out the centre
sections and save for another recipe. Brush the whole rounds on the baking
sheet with the beaten egg, and then place a pastry ring on each one. Pop
in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool.
6. To make the cheese topping, put the goat’s cheese, lemon juice and some
salt and pepper into a bowl and mix with a fork. Avoid over-mixing as you
want the cheese to still be crumbly.
7. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mix onto each piece of pastry,
then top with the sliced apple, overlapping slightly.
8. Melt the remaining butter and brush it over the tarts. Sprinkle over
the allspice.
9. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes until golden brown. When the tarts
are out of the oven, drizzle with the honey and micro purple basil while still
warm and serve.

Hungry Healthy Happy – Pork and Apple Burgers

You can search Hungry Healthy Happy’s recipes by course, ingredient, region or item. In other words, blogger Dannii – who decided to document her significant weight loss and the recipes she used to get there – is ultra-organised and her posts are brilliantly user-friendly. We love these delicious but lean pork and apple burgers, a perfect example of how salty meat can be cut through with gratifying sweetness. Comforting through autumn and winter, they’re also light enough to be great for the barbecue over summer.

Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary – Spiced Apple Cake

The Shetland-dwelling eponymous Elizabeth has a unique claim to her name: the Canadian ex-pat is the most northerly food blogger in the kingdom. She moved to the UK to follow her Scottish roots, with one plan alone: to find a job in a health food shop, just as she’d done in her native Nova Scotia. Having sent her CV to all and sundry, it was an offer of part time work at a health food shop on the remote Shetland Island that finally got her here. That was 20 years ago and she’s been documenting her adventures in food ever since. We love her beautifully photographed fare, some of which she makes to go on hikes around the rural island. But we are powerless to resist her spiced apple cake, with nutmeg and cardamom. Not only is it Insta-perfect, but it’s delicious and warming too – a consideration and an asset that surely rarely goes amiss in northern Scotland.

Recipes from a Pantry – Campfire Apple Crisp Foil Packets

This lovely blog is testament to the power of handing food down the generations. Bintu, the woman behind Recipes from a Pantry, loves colourful dishes, full of vim and spice and flavour, particularly when they hail from her African roots. She learned to cook from her grandmother and her aunt, who provided nutritious and delicious sustenance for her huge and extended family. Today, Bintu marries that culinary heritage with her life in on a farm in the British countryside, where she has a kitchen garden and a barn for storage. The result is not traditional African recipes preserved in aspic, but a medley of both nation’s cuisines, and sometimes a fusion of them both. We adore these campfire apples in crisp baked foil. As the nights draw in, it is just the time to sit outdoors around open fires, wrapped in blankets and gorge of the season’s harvest. This clever recipe is sweet, juicy, healthy – and comes minus mess, thanks to the foil.

Lavender and Lovage – Savoury Baked Apples With Branston Smooth Pickle

Blogger Karen Burns-Booth has led an itinerant life. Born in South Africa, she grew up in Northumberland, where she recalls milk being delivered by the farmer and decanted into a billy can direct from the milk churns. Since, she has lived in Hong Kong, USA, Cyprus, Germany, south-west France, Cornwall, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Hampshire, Scotland, Herefordshire and North Yorkshire, but is now finally installed in an old school house in North Wales. This wanderlust has been pure gold for her culinary interests, and last year she published her first book, Lavender and Lovage – A Culinary Notebook of Memories and Recipes from Home and Abroad. And no wonder. Her recipes are always surprising, often come with a story and are never knowingly not delicious. Baked apples with Branston pickles served with mashed potato would never have crossed our minds. But we’re so glad it crossed hers. It’s the ideal perfect autumn/winter warmer, with plenty of bite and flavour.

My Fussy Eater – Apple and Berry Crumble

Ciara, the brains behind My Fussy Eater, began blogging in 2014 when her children were just 3 and 6, and her daughter especially point-blank refused to eat the vast majority of what was placed in front of her. My Fussy Eater was her attempt to get some varied and healthy sustenance into her without nightly battles. Her posts struck a chord. Five years later, parents in a similar boat can even download her app, which is broken down into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This apple and berry crumble doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but as the nights draw in, sometimes the comforting classics are unbeatable.

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September 2019

By Nancy Alsop