Autumn, Apples, and All things Awesome

Autumn is definitely here in my corner of the world. The woods are slowly turning to gold, the air is getting crisper, and most importantly, i’m tracking roughly two tons of mud into the house on my boots after every dog walk.

dogs: messy buggers

One of the best things about this season is definitely the food. Darker, colder nights combined with forgiving, bulky wool jumpers all allow for justification to stuff our faces with plenty of hearty stews, cobblers, hashes, and soups (screw you, light and citrusy summer salad, your days are numbered. We want warm carbs!)

If you’re anything like my lot, Autumn means foraging. Digging through brambly hedgerows for blackberries, collecting conkers in their spiky little shells, and MOST importantly, scrumping. (apple picking for the uninitiated). My house backs onto plenty of apple-hunting grounds, so this blog is going to tell you what to do with this:

yup, it’s weekend, which means another super-basic food post, and this week i’m making

you will need:

Ingredients

  • one Autumn. (if you cannot find an Autumn, a Fall will do in a pinch, if you are that way inclined)
  • windfall apples (how many will depend on the varying sizes of the ones you find/pick.)  You want the same amount as roughly six or seven regular size Granny Smiths
  • 250g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 120g Butter
  • a couple of cloves
  • either a cinnamon stick or around 1 tbsp ground cinnamon.

i’m using about this many and theyre all different sizes

Method

This whole endeavour takes about 1hr 30 mins (including prep and cool down time) but it’s a ridiculously simple but yummy thing to make.

Take all the skins off your apples. It doesnt matter if the skins are blemished or spotted, these are not supermarket apples, and i’m very much in favour of the ‘ugly fruit and veg’ movement. You’re not going to eat the skins anyway. as long as the flesh inside the apple is clean and firm, you’re good to go. get a paring knife and go Hellraiser on those cheeky pommes.

Core and pip them too, and throw all the chunks into a pan. If you’re not overly familiar with advanced apple science, you may note with alarm…or even bone-chilling fear…that as quick as you are peeling and chunking them, they are turning brown before your very eyes. This is perfectly normal apple behaviour. They’re just oxidizing. If you were making a fruit salad or other cold dish, and wanted to keep your apples green-white, this is easily achieved by dropping them into lemon juice, which stops the natural discolouring process. Here though, you’re going to cook them all imminently, so it makes no difference if they are brown, blue or rainbow speckled.

plus, I think they look pretty

Once all your apple bits are in your pan, and the golden sunlight is streaming in through the window in a suitably satisfying autumnal manner, add three quarters of the caster sugar to the pan:

sugar: nommy.

sugar and apples: nommier

You can also add a couple of Cloves. (not too many because this is going to stew, and as I learned making mulled wine at Christmas, Cloves can be seriously overpowering. maybe about two, and remember to take them OUT again once the cooking is done, or they will keep flavouring the dish until you end up with a clovapocalpse. They look like this:

You can also drop a cinnamon stick in too. I preferred to use ground cinnamon, because I could mix it through as it cooked:

cinna-yum

Your pan should now appear beautifully appletastic and contain every autumn colour, texture and smell in exisitence:

Try to make sure your chunks of apple are all roughly the samel size so that they cook at roughly the same rate, and DONT cut them too small or you’re just going to end up with applesauce. You need to let this stew on the hob GENTLY for about 30 minutes. You don’t need to add any water, the juices from the apples will release, nothing will burn, honest, as long as you stir it occasionally.

and when I say gently, I mean REALLY gently. super-lowest heat possibe:

after half an hour, in which you could a) write a sonnet b) watch Rick & Morty or c) organise your coloured pencils into an OCD rainbow (i did the last one) check the apples are cooked by mashing them a bit with a wooden spoon. They should be soft but not pureed.

Put them into the serving dish and leave to cool on a windowsill next to one or two loveable cartoon bluebirds. ( be careful to ensure the window isn’t open. If there is one thing life and cartoons have taught me, it’s that there is INVARIABLY a charming but cunning fox in a checkered waistcoat just waiting to make off with any home-baked goods left unattended on a windowsill. You have been duly warned)

While the filling is cooling, you can make the topping ( the crumble part)

using:

200g plain flour

with:

120g butter

and of course:

the remaining sugar you DIDNT tip in to cook the apples..

mix all the topping ingredients in a fresh mixing bowl:

and using your fingertips, rub it all together until it resembles breadcrumbs. (try to be as light as you can doing this. You don’t want to use all of your hand, as your palms are generally quite warm. Your fingertips are naturally cooler, being extremities, so you are literally tickling the ingredients until they comply. You can even make tickling noises as you do this if you choose to, although the fox in the waistcoat peering in the window may judge you rather demented if you do so.

It should end up looking like this:

When your apples are cooled, and you have preheated your oven to 150c, pour the crumble over the apples and spread evenly. (You want to do this JUST before you stick it in the oven. dont put the topping on and leave it for ages before cooking, or the crumble will sink in and go soggy, which is vile and dissapointing. when you put the topping on, it needs to cover the apples, but DONT push it down, or it will all mix underneath.

Now all you need to do is bake for around 30/40 minutes, and it’s done. Go by sight. You want it golden brown, with texture like sun, just like the song. Too pale and you’ve got Ghost Crumble. Too Orange and youve got Trump crumble.

crumblegasm

spoon into dish and lose yourself in the heady and dizzying aromas of nommy nomminess:

You can serve this with Ice-Cream, double cream or whipped cream if you wish, but personally I have something of a vendetta against cold toppings on hot foods. This is supposed to be a cosy winter warmer, a crisp and spicy hug in a bowl, so I prefer to serve it with hot custard:

NOM

As always, drop me a message if you try this, and let me know how it turned out. Reccomended reading would be anything cosy, a little magical and autumnal, such as some  Fae fantasy 🙂

 

Advertisements

How to make inexpert Nori Sushi and other calamities from a writer who cooks..

If you follow me on other social media outlets, you will probably have heard me bemoaning how I’d like to broaden my experience here there and everywhere, and get the most out of my interactions with people, sharing not only my writing, discussions about other books etc, but also other passions and interests.

Many of you know that I like to cook and bake and make things, often random and experimental, and my IG stories are often full of fleeting mini-videos and tiny tutorials on what i’m cooking up. the problem is, these are not permanent and I get frequent DM’s for more info or more detail (or just more foodporn)

To that end, whenever I post a food-related pic over on Insta, or Tweet about something I’m making, I’ll now be linking it here to my blog, where (should you wish to) you can follow along, with useful things like lists of actual ingredients and you know…..method…such as it is.

Recipies!

I’m not saying I’m a great cook, but I am enthusiastic, and I love making things. Even if they end up looking like something only a mother could love, they usually taste nice (we shan’t mention the corned beef hash / pasta experiment…..not ever. My other half still hasn’t forgiven me for that)

So moving on swiftly… if, like me, you often feel like this:

but want to play along anyway, today I’m going to be making:

Amateur hamfisted Norimaki (rolls)

make sure you have these things, especially the bamboo rolling mat

You will neeeeeeeeeed:

Things and stuff:

  • 370g Sushi Rice (there are eight billion kinds of rice, educate yo’self.) You can buy this everywhere…well, maybe not the hardware store, but EVERYWHERE else. Get the right kind or get out of Dodge, kid.
  • 700ml water. (Again, this is abundant in many parts of the planet. If you’re unsure if you have any, check your tap/faucet, there may be some in there)
  • 120ml Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil
  • 50g of Caster Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
  • Nori sheets
  • a bamboo rolling mat (a yoga mat will NOT do in a pinch)
  • whatever fillings you desire for your rolls. (there are many traditional fillings, and i’ve put a little chart at the very very end of this post, but you are limited only by your imagination and whatever state or regional laws you are required to abide by – I’m keeping more basic than a starbucks gal and using cucumber, spring onion, peppers etc. – but I’m also making nommy Teriyaki Salmon)

Method:

First, you have to make the rice. simples..

Remove rice from packaging. (This is a crucial step. Do not misunderstand instruction and get head caught in ceiling fan.) You want to rinse the rice over and over…and over…in a sieve under cold water until said water runs clear. De-starch that mo-fo. Then:

Pop the lovely clean little pearls into a pan (medium size) and cover it with 700ml of water. Bring it to the boil, and then as soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to LOW (literally as low as it can go, the limbo of flames) and cook this super-gently for 20 minutes with the lid on. (check it a couple of times to make sure it’s moving around and nothing is sticking to the bottom or burning, but try not to agitate it TOO much.) After 20 mins, the rice should be tender, like an Elvis song or a wistful sunset, and all the water should have been absorbed. so it looks like little fluffy clouds like this:

Leave it to cool enough that you can handle it. (but not manhandle it… it’s tender, remember, show some consideration!) While this is cooling, you can move on to making the magic stuff that will hold the rice in it’s shape and give it that unmistakable nori/sushi flavour.

In a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar with the oil:

then add the sugar and the salt.

Cook this over a medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool for a little while, and then pour this over the rice in the big saucepan and mix it all up. Stir it in well.

Be warned: your rice will look and seem very wet and you may start to despair at your own fumbling attempts, and begin to question your place not only in the kitchen, but in the universe at large. dont worry…it’s supposed to look and feel that way. If you start to feel jittery at this point, do what I do, and look at calming photos of Nigella Lawson licking spoons on Pintrest for five minutes until you’ve calmed down.

right…. now the fun bit

Gather yon ingredients, and get ready for the bit that makes you feel as though you’re  back in playschool and allowed to play with your food without the all-too familiar reproachful stares

You’re going to want to slice your veg into long thin strips. Everyone knows how to slice veg, but this is after all a step-by-step, so here’s a cucumber tutorial (which is not something you want to type into a google search engine…trust me) :

quarter it along the length first…

like so…

remove the horrible watery seeds that invariably make people not like cucumber…

flip over and dispatch the skin with an equal lack of mercy

NOW…

take your bamboo mat and lay out a nori sheet, rough side UP..

Make a little rice bed. If you’re not a ham-fisted and impatient writer, you might want to make yours much neater than I do, but I’ve decided these are decidely bohemean rolls, with a wild and free spirit and the wind in their hair as they gallop free across the plains…

next, line up your fillings roughly in the middle, like so:

then ROLL THAT WILD AND FREE BO-HO MO-FO UP!

This is a ridiculously pleasing sensation

When you unroll it, by processes of alchemy, sorcery, necromancy and basic physics, you will be left with tubular cylinders of satisfying girth:

Rinse and repeat this incredibly fun procedure until either

a) you run out of rice, or

b) you get bored:

Veering with wild abandon from any proper method or established discipline, I suggest now popping your noriwangs in the fridge for maybe ten minutes, just to give the rice and fillings time to settle and cool and gel a little. this will make it easier when you then take them out, and with a SHARP blade, slice them into gorgeous little fat discs of tantalising nomminess like so:

Now, I have the appitite of around twelve regular humans, so I will happily eat ALL of these to myself, with minimum crying and self-loathing, but for the purposes of the article, I should state that all volumes mentioned here are suggested to serve 5 people (laughs softly)

And thats IT! witness your pretty creations!

(I also made some laughably ugly salmon too, which although I wont take you through it, here is a mini steps:)

take the skin off…duh

you can never have too much salmon

you can make it MUCH prettier than this, but god it tastes good

I also marinated some OTHER salmon in teriyaki while I did all this:

then just grilled it lightly:

I like Salmon. can you tell?

I hope you enjoyed my super basic guide to make these. They’re incredibly easy, and look pretty, which is all you can ask, really. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can experiment and make them prettier and prettier. Here are some examples of ACTUAL chefs who know what they’re doing, and make my mouth water just looking at them

oh my nom

mother of nom

son of nom: revenge of the nominators

the main thing is to play around:

and if you make any, let me know how they turn out. (and how many you eat to yourself) 🙂 Suggested bookstagram reading to go with your midnight nori-roll treats: Sushi and Beyond by MIchael Booth, an excellent Japanese food travelogue. go look it up, and enjoy!

Until next time, here’s a list of traditional ingredients to stuff your little slices of heaven with. bye for now.