How do you like them ap­ples?

Abun­dant at this time of year, de­li­cious, healthy ap­ples can be used in sweet and savoury dishes

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD - COOK CARMEL SOMERS

Ihave set my­self a task of us­ing the first Satur­day of ev­ery month to focus on a sin­gle sea­sonal in­gre­di­ent. It be­ing Novem­ber, I’m start­ing with ap­ples. I love an in­gre­di­ent that can be used at ev­ery meal – that has ver­sa­til­ity and an un­re­lent­ing ap­peal. That’s why I’ve cho­sen ap­ples ( as well as for their health ben­e­fits). This time of year, I use them as much as I can. I’ve never heard some­one say, “I don’t like ap­ples”, es­pe­cially those of the crisp, juicy va­ri­ety.

We are well into ap­ple sea­son at this stage and it’s a sea­son of abun­dance that must be taken care of. If you’re lucky enough to be given a gift of home- grown ap­ples, re­ceive them with joy as they can be used in many ways – sim­ply, like juices and purées or, more com­fort­ing, slow- cooked in but­ter and fin­ished off with a lit­tle ap­ple syrup, honey or sugar ( see recipe).

But­tered ap­ples freeze very well and can be used to ac­com­pany savoury dishes such as pork, ham and game as well as to add a bit of lux­ury to desserts.

Last week, I was in France stay­ing with friends and I made the ap­ple and cab­bage salad be­low to go along­side a dish of lo­cal sausage and pulses in a mus­tard sauce. After­wards, my host pro­claimed she would now drop bagged salad leaves from her shop­ping dur­ing win­ter, in favour of this salad.

An­other rea­son to grab that bas­ket of ap­ples with glee is that un­treated and un­waxed ap­ples of­fer huge health ben­e­fits to us as the skin car­ries good bac­te­ria for our gut.

I have many a proud mo­ment when I look at my kitchen shelf and see all the won­der­ful Ir­ish ap­ple prod­ucts I cook with. Since open­ing my restau­rant, I have re­li­giously used Con Trass’s ap­ple cider vine­gar for dress­ings, his cider and ap­ple juice for soups, sor­bets and sauces.

I take a shot of Rebel Foods Cider Vine­gar first thing in the morn­ings in warm wa­ter: the ben­e­fits are end­less – it in­creases me­tab­o­lism and cuts sugar crav­ing. Longueville ap­ple brandy has re­placed Cal­va­dos in many of my dishes. At the mo­ment, I’m us­ing Llewellyn’s Ap­ple Bal­samic to dress cooked beet­roots for our sea­sonal salad.

Ev­ery year brings some­thing new and ex­cit­ing in the food world and this year High­bank or­chard syrup has re­placed maple in lots of my recipes. I find I use it in­stead of sugar to caramelise nuts and seeds to go with ice creams and with but­ter to caramelise fruits.

“Al­ways work with what you have” is my mantra and I try to keep that in mind as I feed my chil­dren, my cus­tomers and my friends. It’s truly im­por­tant we re­mem­ber the de­light that can be found in sim­ple in­gre­di­ents with noth­ing more than a cre­ative mind and some care­ful plan­ning.

It’s easy to for­get that in­gre­di­ents that we deem as com­mon, or the norm, can in fact be splen­did and ex­otic if we em­brace their ver­sa­til­ity. When is an ap­ple not an ap­ple? When you make it so.

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