Apple and Cheese Get an Invitation to the Ball

Do you remember when I wrote about ‘nowness’? In the final weeks of his life, it was the word Dennis Potter used to describe his intense love for the present moment. My Granny’s way of describing ‘nowness’ was what she called ‘having a minute’ and this morning I found yet another version. In 1817 John Keats wrote a letter in which he said that ‘…if a sparrow come before my window, I take part in its existence…’ 

It was with thoughts of Keats’ sparrow that I set off on a walk, a piece of cheese and an apple in the pocket of my coat. You’ll know by now that I love picnics, especially ones that fit into my pocket.  An apple and a piece of cheese have an easy compatibility. Each has its own special qualities and neither tries to outshine the other. Their happy camaraderie makes them the perfect companions for a ‘nowness’ walk. Inevitably, though, when I got home I stopped thinking about now and started thinking about ‘what if?’ instead. What would happen if I gave an apple and cheese new, glamorous outfits and invited them to a party?

APPLE SORBET IN PARMESAN CONES

Serves 4

FOR THE SORBET

  • Ikg cored, unpeeled apples – a sweet, full flavoured variety such as Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Juice of a clementine
  • 1 cup water
  • 375g caster sugar

Grate the apples, skin and all. Squeeze the clementine juice over the apple and put in a pan with the water and sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and keep on the heat for 5 minutes. The beauty of grating the apple is that you don’t need to cook it for very long, so you will retain the goodness and flavour of the fruit. Tip the cooked fruit into a sieve and allow to drip into a bowl. While it’s dripping through, start to make the parmesan cones.

FOR THE PARMESAN CONES

  • 8 tablespoons finely grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Using 2 tablespoons of parmesan per cone, pat the grated cheese into four flat circles, on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cook in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and after one minute, lift the melted cheese circles off the paper and roll between your fingers into a cone shape. Don’t leave them to cool before you do this, because the parmesan biscuits will simply snap. Once rolled, the cones will be about 6 cm long, rather than full-sized ones. This recipe is better in miniature.

By now the apple juice should have dripped through. Cool the juice and then churn in an ice-cream maker. Don’t panic about its amber colour at this stage. The churning and freezing process will turn the juice a pale, creamy pink.

Place a scoop of sorbet into each cone. If you think that an ice-cream cone isn’t properly dressed without a chocolate flake, decorate your sorbet with a tiny celery stalk, its leaves still attached. The combined flavours are perfect. And after all, if apple and cheese are going to the Ball, they have to be given the right accessories, don’t they?

Oh so cordial cordial…

A few weeks ago I paid tribute to poor old Blood Orange Posset, the deliciously delicate pudding that got lumbered with the worst name in the world. As if we needed reminding that life isn’t fair, along swooshes the elegant, beautiful, perfectly-named Apple Mint Cordial. If Blood Orange Posset and Apple Mint Cordial were guests at a wedding, BOP would be in the back row, behind a pillar and forced to wear a hat picked by Princess Beatrice, while AMC would be in the front pew dressed entirely in Alexander McQueen.

Not that it’s cordial’s fault. And I do love food that’s both a noun and an adjective. To drink a cordial that is cordial is very satisfying, although that might just be the cranky way my mind works. (While I’m on the subject of grammar, food that’s both a noun and a verb is weirdly full of fat – think of lard, milk, butter and oil).

This particular cordial will quench your thirst at a glance.

Apple Mint Cordial

Makes about 1 litre

1kg apples – Cox’s are best, although I used Royal Gala here

320 grams caster sugar

Finely pared peel of one unwaxed lemon

1 litre water

2 large handfuls of fresh mint leaves plus extra for serving

Chop the apples roughly, but don’t bother to peel or core them. Place them in a large pan with the sugar, water and lemon. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add the mint leaves.

Simmer gently for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the apple is soft and mushy. Turn off the heat and pour the entire lot into a jelly-making bag and allow it to drip slowly through into a bowl for a couple of hours. You can squish it through with the back of a ladle if you like, but I prefer to leave it to its own devices so that it emerges on the other side as a clear rather than cloudy pink liquid. Pour into sterilised bottles. It will keep in the fridge for about a week. Alternatively, you can freeze it into ice cubes and use them at your leisure. Add about 1/3 cordial to 2/3 still or sparkling water and serve with plenty of ice and a handful of fresh mint leaves.

Drink your Apple Mint Cordial while making a consoling, slightly smug toast to poor old Blood Orange Posset.

Solidarity Pudding

I took a long walk with a dear friend this morning and he commented that of all the words to crystallize the meaning of friendship, solidarity is perhaps the best. So this week’s post is an Ode to Solidarity. As Laurence J. Peter said so wisely, ‘you can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself he doesn’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.’

I love the substantial, comforting heft of the word solidarity. The mere sound of it would protect against the coldest of winter winds and the bleakest of times, just like the best of friends.

So here is my Solidarity Pudding – a warming apple and almond confection – to be served to your closest allies and greatest defenders.

Solidarity Pudding

Serves 6 Friends

6 eating apples – Royal Gala are good for this

40g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

140g butter

120g caster sugar

2 eggs

120g ground almonds

2 tablespoons self-raising flour

Handful of flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Peel, core and slice the apples and mix with the soft brown sugar, the five spice powder and 20g of the butter, which you’ve melted. Place the fruit in a baking dish around 18 cm in diameter or similar.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add them gradually to the butter mixture, mixing thoroughly as you go. Stir the almonds and flour together and fold gently into the butter, sugar and eggs. Pour the mixture over the fruit, scatter the flaked almonds on top and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes or until golden brown. The pudding should still be a little gooey in the middle and served with cream.

Light the candles and eat your substantial, nourishing Solidarity Pudding while you laugh like drains about old times.

Don’t walk in front of me

I may not follow

Don’t walk behind me

I may not lead

Walk beside me

And just be my friend

Albert Camus