How do you like them apples?
Abundant at this time of year, delicious, healthy apples can be used in sweet and savoury dishes
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.