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Simple stewed apple is versatile as a sauce with chicken, pork, ham, flat fish such as plaice, or oily fish such as mackerel or tuna. Good with icecream, oatmeal biscuits or a sponge cake, try freezing it to have as a healthy spoonful in a cone. Quarter the apples (no need to peel) and put in a saucepan with a dessertspoon of sugar to every four apples and enough water to cover the bottom of the saucepan. Bring to the boil and turn down. Watch carefully as ideally you want a pulp that is not watery and is nicely fluffy. This may take as little as 5 minutes, depending on the texture of the apples. Sieve, or mash and pick out the skins. Test for sweetness before serving.
I usually use cooking apples for the base and sliced, unpeeled sweet, red apples for the top to provide contrast of colour and taste. The stewed apple on this blog is ideal and can be made from cooking or any dessert apple. Taste as you go, and don’t add sugar until the last minute. Apple sweetness varies hugely. The glory of apples is their tartness contrasting with sweet pastry. The pastry recipe comes from Shaun Hill’s How to Cook Better (Mitchell Beazley 2004) and is foolproof with no rubbing in. I don’t put it in clingfilm before rolling it out, but press it into the tin and then let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour. I have made it days ahead if under pressure. In fact this tart can be made a few days ahead. As the pastry is baked before the filing is added, it will keep its firmness.
1 egg yolk
110g butter (unsalted is ideal, but salted will do)
1 dssp caster sugar
175g plain flour.
Beat the egg yolk, butter and sugar together until smooth.
Stir in the flour. Avoid over beating at this stage, as it could toughen up, but make sure the ingredients are well integrated. I often pulse it in a blender.
Line a 26cm pastry case, ideally with a detachable base and cover with clingfilm until ready to bake it.
Remove the clingfilm and bake in the oven preheated to 190c gas 5 375f for about 15 minutes or until light golden and crisp. I don’t use baking beans or anything to keep the pastry flat. If it does bubble up, simply puncture it. At this point any filling that is to be cooked can be put on top.
If you want to use fresh fruit such as strawberries and raspberries which don’t require further cooking, give it another 10 minutes or until it’s browner, but not burning. Remember that the sugar in it could cause it to scorch.
Apple Tart filling
Spoon stewed apple on to the pastry to coat it thickly.
Core, but don’t peel sweet apples and arrange in circles or any patter you fancy. Cooking apples, peeled and cored are perfectly good here too. Make the slices as thick or thin as you like. Thicker slices become more fluffy, while thin slices keep their shape better.
Dot with flicks of butter and scatter with about a tablespoon of sugar – granulated, brown, caster, it doesn’t matter.
Bake for 20–30 minutes. Timing depends on the type of apple. Some will disintegrate quickly, but the fluffiness is delicious too.
Serve hot, warm or cold with nothing, cream or icecream. I recently served it with my own vanilla ice-cream flavoured with raisins soaked in PX sherry. Heavy, but delicious. Let me know if you want the recipe.