I’m feeling just slightly chuffed because Artemis has called to ask for my apple jelly recipe! Not just because it was good and she wants to make it; but because it’s a very special apple tree that made that jelly.
We have a block of land that overlooks Ile aux Marins and the harbour; on which one day I would like to build a house. It’s a steep and wild block; with several springs and a water course running through it, but once you get about 10m up off the road it has a flat patch with a field of stones and what I was told was a ‘wild’ apple tree. The block is also covered in wild blueberries; which I picked last year in the summer.
This year we arrived too late for the blueberries, but the apple tree was covered in tiny little round fruit. It is not like any other apple tree I’ve ever seen, growing close to the ground and spreading out as far as its little woody fingers can take it. It looks more like a bush than a tree; and in September the apples were hard and bitter. I brought a few home and put them in a stuffing; and then promptly forgot about my tree while I read with envy of my cousin Diana and my friend Biggles’ cornucopia of fruit from their various trees in BC and Scotland. So it wasn’t until late November that I went back up to the land with the dogs and saw that the tree was now bare of leaves and covered with fruit; and thought – huh; why not jelly? You can make it from crab apples – why not these little things? A random FB discussion about my great aunt Carmila’s founding of the Womens India Trust which used to make the most amazing jams and jellies had put me in mind of this old fashioned favourite; I hadn’t eaten it in years but loved it as a kid.
A bit more research (including some advice from Biggles, that the apples – the size of a lime – were certainly not wild or even crab apples but likely ‘cookers’) – and I persuaded the Genie to come up with the dogs and me – thought the first snow fall of the year, which was a hoot to us wogs! – and take some home to make a jelly, having found a recipe I liked on the blog site of an American chef living in Paris.
The Genie hadn’t been to the land before, and he asked me about the field of stones; which I told him I thought must have been a cod drying field. There must have been a house up here back in the day; with this apple tree at the door. Charming thought and I am now more determined than ever that when we build up here we won’t disturb either the tree or the field.
So we went home with about three kilos of tiny apples, and I proceeded to make jelly according to the instructions as follows : https://www.davidlebovitz.com/apple-jelly-jam-recipe/
I don’t have a jelly bag, nor a shop to buy one from, so used the colander and my IWC scarf as a ‘muslin’ (yes, Betrave, sigh, I KNOW); and left it to drain overnight.
Two days later, the GC announced that the jelly was ‘excellent’ (having opened a jar as a midnight snack) and having been completely dismissive of our efforts previously declared that we should return at once, take ALL the apples and MAKE MORE JELLY!
So back up we went (this time with the car, so that we wouldn’t have to carry them the 5k or so back to the house!) and picked everything that we could, including the recent windfalls. I think we were just in the nick of time with the weather, as I don’t think they would have been much good after a real frost. Coming home with around 10 kilos of tiny apples, we sorted them and I immediately jellied around 3 kilos of slightly damaged or imperfect ones. This time I experimented with a bit of my ginger vodka in a couple of jars. Haven’t tasted them yet … but the ones with cognac are wonderful.
The most exciting thing was that actually it turns out that there is ANOTHER apple tree – right next to the bushy one; it’s growing more like a small tree and had only about three or four green apples on it; they look like some kind of Gravenstein. These are trees that have been completely neglected for years – at least 50 – so now of course I need to mug up on pruning and feeding as they will be my pet project for the new year – with lots of advice from Diana and Biggles.
Jelly isn’t the only thing I’ve used these little fellows for. A couple of nights ago I cored a few of the larger ones and stuffed them with sultanas and roasted them with a butterflied chicken and some other more traditional roasted veg; and made little apple cakes too. I’ve also invented a dish which sautees zucchini with apples and rosemary (in butter); a great accompaniment to pork chops!
The other night someone came to dinner and we could give them a slow roasted shoulder of chevraix that the GC’s undertaker cousin, Mephisto, shot a few weeks ago; followed by date and apple compote with hot chocolate sauce – a local meal; from a place that everyone says produces nothing. Huh. That’s what we call bush tucker, mate! Sorry no photos; the dead iPhone SE and it’s wonderful camera is sorely missed … I’m doing my best, peeps.
Butterflied Roast Chicken
When I first read the NYT Cooking recipe for Buttermilk Roasted Chicken (https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/7264-buttermilk-roast-chicken) I thought; what a genius idea! For some reason the humble roast chicken has been my nemesis. I will never forget a night back in uni days; in our shared household in Chatswood, when we’d invited the parents to dinner and I cooked a stuffed chicken (with spinach) and the damn thing took forever to cook! I hadn’t realised that it would take so much longer and we waited and waited while everything else got nasty and the parents tired! I’ve never roasted a whole chicken since without a sense of total trepidation. Butterflying, however, makes all that just a bad dream. It’s a doddle; just cut out the backbone; smoosh the thing flat, slather it in whatever you feel like – olive oil, rosemary and salt and surround it with whatever you like; bake in a hottish oven – 220 degrees is good – for 45 minutes till it’s crisp and golden and the juices run clear if you put a skewer in between the thigh and drumstick. The last time I did this, I used a 1.5 kg chook. I cut up three largish potatoes into chunks about an inch square; 2 large carrots, cut into three sections lengthways and then split into pieces of about equal size (the bottom end into quarters, the top into halves); six of my little cooker apples cored and stuffed with sultanas; and three parsnips treated the same way as the carrots. Break up half a head of garlic and discard all the loose skin; add the cloves in their skin to the other veggies.
Put the lot in a bowl and slug a bit of extra virgin olive oil and salt; mix well to cover and then put those on a baking sheet that you’ve covered with baking paper. Sprinkle on a bit of rosemary and then put the chicken on top. A bit more olive oil and rosemary on top of the chicken; and into the oven.
You’d want to serve this with a green veggie or a salad; perhaps some tiny peas that have been boiled briefly in salted water or if you wanted to be fancy, chop half an onion, sautee in a bit of butter till it’s soft and then throw in the peas with salt and pepper. Cover and cook gently till the peas are defrosted and the whole lot is hot; just a few minutes is all it needs. A splash of crème fraiche works on this too but don’t drown the peas and turn it into a milky bath!
Buttery Cinnamon Apple Cakes (Australian Women’s Weekly Recipe)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (150g) caster sugar
3/4 cup (110g) self raising flour
1/4 cup (35g) plain flour
1/2 cup (80ml) apple juice
1 small red apple (I used 3 of my little cookers)
11/2 tablespoons demerara sugar
1/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to moderat. Grease 8 hole (1/2 cup / 125ml) little loaf pans (I used muffin tins as I’m not so elegant
- Beat butter; extract and sugar in a small bowl with electric mixer till light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating until just combined between additions
- Fold in combined sifted flours and juice in two batches. Spread mixture into prepared pans
- Cut the unpeeled apple into quarters; remove core & slice thinly. Overlap apple slices on top of cakes
- Combine demerara sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle half the sugar mixture over cakes
- Bake in moderate oven 25 minutes. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.
Apple and Date Compote (Four people)
For the Compote – Two large or four very small apples; 10 large Mejdool dates; a handful of sultanas; 6 dried apricots; a stick of cinnamon; 2 star anise; two tablespoons sugar
Core and chop the apples into bite sized chunks (about 2cm across); stone the dates and halve the apricots. Put the lot into a small saucepan with just enough water to cover, the sugar, cinnamon & star anise. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently till the apples are cooked through. Leave to cool.
Before serving, remove the cinnamon & anise and gently reheat the compote.
To make the chocolate sauce, heat half a cup of cream until nearly boiling; then add 200g of dark chocolate (preferably Lindt 70). Add a teaspoon of unsalted butter and stir well till it’s all smooth and luscious. Add a tablespoon of your favourite liquer if you like – cognac; or calvados is good. I have a wonderful saucier that keeps chocolate sauce hot at the table; so I like to serve this in big bowls and let people help themselves rather than portioning it out; but you could do that too obviously – compote in first and sauce on top. I think if I was going to do it that way I’d want to have something sprinkly on top of the chocolate – maybe chopped pistachios or slivered almonds. That would be nice.
Slow Roasted Shoulder of Chevraix (Deer)
I think this shoulder weighed around 2.5 kgs. I made a Moroccan spice mix – tablespoon of ground coriander; tablespoon of cumin seed; teaspoon of tumeric; half a teaspoon of chili flakes; half a tablespoon of paprika; 2 inch knob of ginger, finely grated; salt & pepper. Put all that in a small bowl, then mix it up to a spreadable paste with enough extra virgin olive oil. Put the shoulder bone side down in a large baking tray and coat it with the marinade (I use my hands but you could use a spatula I suppose). Pour over another couple of slugs of olive oil; cover securely with two layers of aluminium foil and put the thing in the oven. I cooked this in our fuel stove at 150degrees C for four hours (while we were out picking apples) and then transferred it to the gas oven at 180 for two hours. It was amazing, served with instant couscous mixed with chick peas and a bit of home made gremolata (rind of half a lemon chopped finely with parsley). I also had, miraculously, huge handfuls of fresh coriander to put directly on top of the meat.
You can cook this with lamb shoulder; it will take four hours in a gas oven at 150 and be meltingly tender. Or you can leave it in there for six hours; maybe a bit lower temp; it won’t hurt it. Just make sure that the aluminium foil cover is tightly pinched around the edges to seal so that it can kind of steam. It’s the easiest thing and just the bomb for pleasing a crowd. I did two lamb legs like this and hosted a party on board Aquarius in La Ciotat for the shipyard of Sailing Concept; not usually something you get on a boat!!!
Sauteed Zucchini and Apples (for Four)
2 tablespoons butter
2 large zucchinis, cut into batons (I cut them into quarters lengthways and then halve each piece lengthways and cut them into threes to make little long triangles – I just like it like that. You can just cut them into half moons J)
1 large apple, quartered, cored and cut into slices
Melt the butter in a saucepan that will hold the apple and zucchini in one layer and when it’s foaming put in the zucchini and apple. Sautee gently till they are golden and cooked; adding salt to taste and a sprinkle of dried rosemary. Serve hot with sausages, chops or chicken.