A taste of Somerset in a scone

cheese and apple scones

This post originally featured in the Wells Journal on Thursday 28 November 2013.

I used to be something of a purist when it came to scones. The whole scone experience was more about the indulgence of the clotted cream and jam, rather than the scone itself. If I was being slightly adventurous, I might throw a few sultanas into the scone mixture.
But since a) having children and b) becoming a food blogger, a new scone-shaped world has opened up to me, particularly the seemingly endless possibilities of the savoury scone.

Savoury scones are a perfect standby snack for little ones (and adults) and I often make them for the children’s lunchboxes too. Courgette and cheese scones are favourites, as are butternut squash and red onion.

Think of Somerset foods and Cheddar cheese and apples will no doubt come to mind. I know, I know – the produce of Somerset is so much more varied than this ubiquitous pairing, but you have to admit our apples and cheese are world-class. If you were at the Wells Food Festival back in September, you’ll have seen the crowds around the cheese stall; all due to the fine reputation of our local cheeses.

And what better to enjoy alongside your cheese than a crisp, flavourful apple. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful variety available to us here, although we should remember that more than 50 per cent of Somerset’s orchards have disappeared over the last 50 years. This is something a number of local growers and projects are working hard to turn around.

apple

So, for a taste of Somerset in a scone, how about a tasty cheese and apple scone, using a mature local Cheddar and a generous sprinkling of fresh sage? They’re perfect cold in your packed lunch but even better served warm from the oven, with a little salted butter and some extra slices of cheese or maybe some cold meats.

cheese and apple scones

Cheddar cheese, apple and sage scones

Makes around 12

300g self-raising Flour
½ tsp baking powder
75g butter
125g mature Cheddar, grated
handful of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 large eating apple, cored and grated
1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten
150ml milk

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.

Grease a large baking sheet and cover with baking parchment.

Pour the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix together. Chop the butter into cubes and rub it into the flour using your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir two-thirds of the cheese into the mixture, along with the sage and apple.

Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the beaten egg and milk. Use a knife to bring together into a soft dough. If it is too wet, add a little more flour.

Lightly flour the work top. Roll out the dough to a 2cm thickness and use a pastry cutter to cut out your scones. Keep re-rolling the dough until it is all used up.

Place the scones on the baking sheet spaced well apart. Sprinkle the scones with the remaining grated cheese and bake for around 15 minutes until golden.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

cheese and apple scones

These scones are an ideal lunchbox filler and so I am entering them into this month’s Family Foodies challenge, which I just happen to be co-hosting with Lou over at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Lunchbox Ideas.

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As the scones also feature fresh sage, I’m entering them into November’s Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted of course by Karen at Lavender & Lovage.

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And finally, as these scones feature local West Country Cheddar cheese and apples, I’m entering them into the Shop Local blogging challenge at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

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Cooking with apples

Apple Collage

Katie’s Sausage & Apple Toad in the Hole, Michelle’s Apple Cake and my Nana’s Eve’s Pudding

Our apple season here has been and gone, but for a good couple of months there was quite a frenzy of apple cooking and apple eating in the Bangers & Mash household.

We have a lovely Discovery apple tree in our garden, which gives us a good crop of pretty red apples fairly early in the season. We can normally start picking them from around mid August. Well, most years. Last year we only had six apples from the tree but it was a terrible year for apple growers all over the UK. This year we had a splendid harvest.

apples

Discovery is a wonderfully sweet and crisp apple. The skin is so red it leeches into the white flesh turning it pink. And when you juice them, the apple juice is the most gorgeous shade of pinky-red.

The only problem is Discovery apples don’t store well, so I do find that late summer and early autumn become our apple-obsessed months, with practically every meal or snack featuring apple in some form or another. We’ve been baking, chutneying, pureeing, drying, juicing, freezing and crumbling! But as soon as they’re gone, I miss them terribly.

So when an invitation came from Waitrose to try some of their English apples, it couldn’t have come at a our better time.

Waitrose runs a Grow & Sell campaign with schools, encouraging seven to eleven year olds across the UK to grow their own produce and sell it to Waitrose customers. They are now taking this a step further and encouraging families to grow their own apples at home. So along with my apples I was also delighted to receive a Scrumptious apple tree to plant out in the garden alongside our Discovery tree, which will extend our apple season next year considerably.

Scrumptious is perfect for smaller gardens as you don’t actually need another tree nearby as a pollinating partner to produce a bumper crop of apples. The sweet eating apples are ready to pick in September and the tree is also happy in a large pot so long as it is kept well fed and watered.

With my bumper bag of Coxes apples from Waitrose I decided to try out some recipes from their website, where I found some rather tempting dishes from top food bloggers.

toad in the hole

This Sausage and Apple Toad in the Hole from Katie at Feeding Boys caught my eye straightaway. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that toad in the hole is a bit of a favourite in our house. I’ve never thought to include apple before and it was a big hit with all my family. We made ours with Waitrose pork and herb chipolatas and it’s certainly a dish I’ll be making again.

apple cake

I also baked this yummy Apple Cake from Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. It’s a delicious cake to serve slightly warm with yoghurt or ice cream, or I think it would work equally well as a pudding with lashings of homemade custard. My daughters also appreciated it cold as an after-school snack.

eve's pudding

Eve’s Pudding is always very popular with my clan and so I used the rest of the apples to rustle one up. It’s a recipe my Nana Barbara gave me and it’s a proper, old-fashioned, comforting sort of a pud – what I call a ‘hug in a bowl’ – with sweet, juicy pieces of cooked apple enveloped in a soft, fluffy sponge. Just the kind of pudding I crave when the weather turns nippy. What’s even better is it’s so easy to make.

My Nana’s Eve’s Pudding

450g eating apples, peeled and cored
60g demerara sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tbsp water
85g butter
85g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
115g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170°C / gas mark 4.

Slice the apples thinly into a greased ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar, grated lemon rind and water.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon and carefully spread the mixture over the apples.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the apples are tender and the sponge mixture cooked. If you’re using an Aga, bake in the bottom of the roasting oven with the cold plate in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, and then move to the bottom oven for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

What are your favourite recipes to cook with apples?

Disclosure: Waitrose provided me with a complimentary apple tree and £10 shopping voucher for this post. All opinions are totally my own.

Tarte tatin


Apple Collage

We’ve been back from France for a week now but to be honest, although my body may be home I think I might have left my brain back in the Dordogne somewhere. It’s taking me a little while to get back into the swing and routine of normal life. Which I guess is the sign of a good holiday.

We ate well in France and so I have returned home both round and brown. You can’t really spend time in France and not take advantage of the good food now, can you? We ate out quite a lot and when we cooked for ourselves we generally kept things pretty simple with gorgeous barbecues and delicious salads. When you’re on holiday, you don’t want to spend all your time over a hot stove – far better to be sat by the pool with a cold beer and a good book. But I can’t go a whole fortnight without wanting to play around in the kitchen. One of our first meals was the fabulous Elizabeth David classic, poulet a l’estragon, and another dish I simply had to try my hand at was the French upside-down favourite, tarte tatin.

I’ve wanted to make tarte tatin for a long time but somehow have never quite got around to it. And as our house was surrounded by apple trees absolutely heaving with fruit, it seemed the obvious thing to make. The only slight problem was that our kitchen wasn’t the best equipped; only after buying all the ingredients did I discover there weren’t any weighing scales or a rolling pin. So I had to improvise with an empty wine bottle and by googling conversions for grammes to tablespoons. But I got there in the end.

When my daughters came in from the pool to see what I was up to, I was clearly having so much fun baking they just had to join in. They created their own little delicacies from the leftover pastry and apple pieces, which they left out that night to feed the fairies.

baking

I used Nigella Lawson’s tarte tatin recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess. It’s not a particularly authentic recipe as it uses Danish pastry, which you’ll need to make up the day before, but I think it worked really well and it got a big thumbs up from the rest of the family, and if you’ve got the right equipment it’s not all that difficult either.

tarte tatin

Tarte tatin

Serves 6 to 8

For the Danish pastry

60ml warm water
125ml milk, at room temperature
1 egg
350g white bread flour
7g sachet of easy-blend yeast
1 tsp salt
25g caster sugar
250g butter, cold, cut into tiny pieces

For the filling

100g butter
150g caster sugar
1kg eating apples, peeled, cored and quartered

A 22cm tarte tatin dish or similar-shaped ovenproof frying pan

Start by making the Danish pastry. Nigella makes hers in a food processor but as I didn’t have one available, I made mine by hand. Pour the water and milk into a jug and add the egg and beat together with a fork.

In a large bowl, place the flour, yeast, salt  and mix together. Add the pieces of butter, mix again and then add the contents of the jug. Use your hands to combine everything, until you have a gooey, lumpy mess. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to look like this. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pastry, remove the goo from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before rolling it out to a square 50cm by 50cm. At this stage I discovered my mixture was still incredibly wet and so I had to add quite a bit more flour before I could handle it. I assume this problem was down to my lack of weighing scales.

Fold the dough square into thirds, like (as Nigella puts it) a business letter. Turn it so that the closed fold is on the left. Roll it out again to a 50cm square, and then repeat this three more times. Cut the pastry in half and wrap in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for half an hour before using. The tarte tatin only uses one half of the pastry, so use the other half for something else. I used mine for plum Danish pastries – I’ll post the recipe for this soon.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Pop in a baking sheet to warm up.

Put the butter in a tarte tatin dish or a heavy ovenproof frying pan on the hob and melt the butter. Add the sugar. When it starts to foam add the apple quarters and arrange them in a circular pattern, curved side down. Cook on a fairly high heat until the buttery juices turn a beautiful golden colour and the apple begins to soften. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool a little for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pastry into a thin circle slightly larger than the pan. Lay it on top of the apples and tuck the edges down the sides under the apples. Place the pan on the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the caramel syrup is bubbling.

Place a large plate on top of the pan and with great care (and wearing oven gloves) turn the pan and plate upside down. Remove the pan to reveal your beautiful tart. OK, so probably a few pieces of apple will probably have stuck to the pan, but that’s not a problem – just pop them back into place. Slice and serve with a large dollop of creme fraiche.

tarte tatin

As the pastry uses milk, eggs and flour, this tarte tatin is my entry into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge, which I have been hosting on behalf of the charity SWALLOW.

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And as tarte tatin is a classic French summer pud, I’m also entering it into the fabulous new Four Seasons  Food challenge, hosted by Delicieux and Chez Foti, where the theme for August is Summer Puds.

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I am also entering it into Tea Time Treats hosted by The Hedge Combers and Lavender & Lovage, where the theme for January 2014 is Eggs.

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Apple porridge

I often feel a bit of a hypocrite in the mornings as I make my daughters their porridge for breakfast. I’ve never been able to eat the stuff you see.

I love the idea of it; a big steaming bowl of hot porridge sounds the ideal way to set you up on a chilly day. And it’s just so good for you. You digest porridge slowly, so it fills you up for longer. High in fibre, oats are proven to prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol and boost serotonin.

My problem is the hot milk. I’m not good with hot, milky things and have never been able eat rice pudding or semolina. Even with hot chocolate I have to be in just the right mood, and it must be really good quality chocolate to distract me from the milk. And if there’s any skin on top – urrrgghh!

Lots of people have suggested ditching the milk and making porridge with water instead. But that’s always sounded rather mean and stingy to me. Then I came across an item in Runners World (can’t believe I mentioning that particular publication again!) which suggested using apple juice. Why had I never thought of that myself?

Porridge made with apple juice is my new favourite breakfast. It’s absolutely delicious and I feel just so virtuous eating it. I add currants, giving it a lovely crunchy fruitiness and mix in a little cinnamon, which of course goes so well with apple. Then I serve it with a decent dollop of yoghurt and a squeeze of runny honey. Perfect! The children like it too. But my husband’s a traditionalist and is sticking with his milk.

Apple porridge

Makes one large bowl

4og porridge oats
200ml apple juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Handful of currants
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Honey

I don’t have that much time in the mornings, so I make my porridge in the microwave. Simply put the oats, juice, cinnamon and currants into a microwaveable bowl, give it a good mix and place in the microwave. Cook on medium power for a couple of minutes and then stir. Cook again for another two, maybe two and a half minutes, until you’ve got the porridgy consistency you’re after. I like mine pretty thick. Serve with a generous spoonful of yoghurt and lots of lovely honey. Yum!

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Here is another entry for Action for Children’s Festive Food for a Fiver contest – my very easy sausage, cranberry and apple plait. Costing around £5.70 to make and feeding a family of six, this tasty dish works out at only 95p a head; even less if you were to make your own pastry from scratch.

The charity Action for Children is asking people to support their emergency appeal: No child should wish for food this Christmas.

As more families are finding it increasingly difficult to put regular meals on the table, they’d like people to put their creativity to work for a good cause and learn new cooking and money management skills from others, by sharing frugal recipes ideas (less than £1.25 a head) on Facebook and Twitter. The two best recipes will be rewarded with a lovely family cookbook, full of many useful tips, kindly provided by Giraffe Restaurant.

Visit the Action for Children website for more details on how you can get involved.

Sausage, cranberry and apple plait

Filled with sausage meat, this plait is essentially a big, posh sausage roll but much yummier. The cranberries and apple provide those lovely festive flavours. You can also do a sweet version by switching the sausage for marzipan or maybe mincemeat.

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
knob of butter
50g dried cranberries
320g ready rolled puff pastry
6 pork sausages
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

Put the apples in a saucepan with the knob of butter and cook gently until they begin to soften. Stir in the cranberries and cook for a few minutes. Then leave to cool.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and lay the puff pastry on top.

Slice open the sausage skins and squeeze out the sausage meat down the centre of the puff pastry. Top with the cooled apple and cranberry mixture. With a sharp knife, cut stripes almost from the filling out to the edge.

Brush some beaten egg onto the pastry and then carefully fold in alternate sides of the pastry to overlap on top of the filling.

Keep going until the filling is covered. Fold over the pastry at the top and the bottom. You may need to trim of some excess pastry if it looks a little too bulky.

Brush the pastry with more egg. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.

Carefully slice the sausage plait and serve with a simple salad. Delicious!

Pork, black pudding and apple pie

I remember my Nana Barbara taking me to Bury Market when I was a little girl. I must have been about six or seven. What I remember most was seeing a pair of the most amazing sparkly, silver, strappy shoes. With heels. And I wanted them so, so much. But of course I didn’t get them. If I did, it wouldn’t be one of those memories that stayed with me forever I suppose.

If you took me to Bury Market these days, I don’t think I’d be looking at clothes or shoes, even of the silver variety. It would be the food stalls that would receive my undivided attention.

One item in particular I couldn’t leave without would be some proper Lancastrian black pudding. So it might be one of those food stuffs you don’t want to think too much about what goes into (it’s largely pork blood and fat, if you were unsure), but it’s a food I’ve loved since I was a child, especially as part of a cooked British breakfast. It’s probably due to my northern roots on my Dad’s side.

When I saw a recipe featuring black pudding on my Twitter timeline recently, I knew immediately I’d have to try it. @seldom_seen_boy had seen Brian Turner cook a pork and black pudding pie on that British institution of daytime television known as This Morning. I made a mental note there and then that the next time we had roast pork, I’d use the leftovers to make this pie.

So that’s precisely what I did, and it was very, very good. I wasn’t 100% sure whether the rest of the family would like it. My husband’s never been all that keen on black pudding and I thought the kids might turn their noses up at it too. Overall though it got a thumbs up. Only my seven-year-old was a little unsure, and about halfway through she started picking out the black pudding. But at least she had a go.

Personally I loved it. Who needs silver shoes when you have a black pudding pie, eh?

Pork, black pudding and apple pie

Serves 8

1 tbsp vegetable oil
30g butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, grated
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken stock
350g roast pork, shredded
250g black pudding, diced
2 apples, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
500g ready made shortcrust pastry
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6.

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan, and gently cook the onion, garlic and carrot until they start to colour.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer gently without a lid for 15 minutes. Stir in the shredded pork.

In a separate pan, fry the black pudding and apple until slightly browned. Then stir this into the rest of the pie filling. Season, bring to the boil, and then leave to cool.

Roll out half the pastry into a thin circle the same size as an ovenproof dish. Grease the dish and then lay over the pastry. Pile on the pie filling.

Roll out the second half of the pastry into a circle the same size as the first. Egg wash the rim of the pie and lay the lid over the filling. Press the rim, scallop the edges and cut a tiny air hole in the centre of the pastry. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with mashed potatoes and onion gravy.

Apple crumble muffins

We’ve got another cake sale coming up soon at my daughter’s primary school. These are definitely one of the PTA’s most successful ways to raise funds. You should see the number of homemade cakes the parents bring in. It’s very impressive.

I have a couple of standards I usually bake, which I know always get snapped up. The first is the banana chocolate cupcake, which I’ve featured here before. And the other is the scrumptious apple crumble muffin, the recipe for which I’ve taken from Linda Collister’s excellent book ‘Baking with Kids’.

I like to think of both these cakes as being vaguely healthy since they contain fruit. Obviously they also contain lots of butter and sugar too, so I don’t think you can really claim they’re a substitute for one of your child’s five-a-day!

The apple crumble muffin is a big hit in our house. The perfect combination of cake and pudding.

And as they contain apple, I’m entering this muffin into February’s In Season Challenge over at Make It Bake It, where the theme this month is any recipe containing apples.

Apple crumble muffins

Topping:

50g butter
50g sugar
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds

Cakes:

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
1 lemon
150g butter
2 eggs
100ml milk
2 eating apples

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Work them together until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Stir in the zest from the lemon and make a well. Pour the melted butter, beaten eggs and milk into the well, and mix gently.

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Core and roughly chop the apples and scatter on top of the muffin mixture, then sprinkle over the topping.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of milk!