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