THOUGHT FOR FOOD

She’s been travelling the world, but a simple British apple is the focus of Rosemary Shrager’s attention this month…

Rosemary

I have had a very busy time recently, travelling from east to west Japan and also Florida. The one thing I learned is I do not like the food in America, and the portions were obscene. Then we went to Japan where it was style and beauty, and whatever we were given it was given with style. I ended up working in a sushi bar making tempura – what a treat! I will tell you about my trip to these places some other time, although you will be able to see them at Christmas on BBC2…

Yesterday, I had a call from BBC York asking me if I could give them some suggestions for cooking Bramley apples. That got me thinking to tell you all about the Bramley apples. They are the best flavoured cooking apple you will ever find – the reason for this is their distinct texture and acidity, so when they cook, they break down like no other apple; smooth, fluffy and silky all at the same time.

For me one of the best ways to cook a Bramley is core out the centre, cut a slice on the base so it sits fl at, then put any dried fruit mixture in the middle mixed with butter – or nothing if you are dieting – put into the oven for 30 minutes on 190°C, and it comes out like a soft juicy soufflé.

Now, let me tell about the history of this wonderful fruit. The first pips were planted in a garden in Southwell Nottinghamshire, by a young girl called Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809. Years later in 1846, the cottage was bought by a local butcher called Mathew Bramley, and the tree was left behind. In 1856 a local nurseryman Henry Merryweather asked if he could take cuttings from the tree to start selling the apples. Bramley agreed to this but insisted that the apples should bear his name.

The first recorded sale of the Bramley is in Henry’s book of accounts on the 31 October 31 1862 – he sold three Bramley apples for two shillings. I think this was rather expensive at the time. Bramley apples were then exhibited in 1876 for the first time and highly commended by the Royal Horticultural Society’s fruit committee. Who would have known that when the little girl planted those pips in her garden in Nottinghamshire 200 years ago, she was growing a £37million industry with commercial growers across Kent, East Anglia and the West Midlands.

I salute this very British fruit, we must keep buying it as there has been a fall in customers purchasing them, so the one thing we don’t want to happen is for the Bramley to become a rare product. Keep cooking with it too – you can make crumble, sorbet, pancakes, baby purée, jelly, apple cake…the list is endless. I have just brought out a fantastic pie dish that you can buy in Lakeland, along with a couple of recipes, one being a Bramley apple pie.

If you fancy an apple dessert cake, try the recipe below. I serve it with a good custard…

Apple cake

APPLE CAKE WITH PINE NUTS (makes two 20cm cakes)

• 125g plain fl our
• 125g self-raising fl our
• 150g caster sugar
• 2 whole eggs
• 75g unsalted butter, soft
• 75ml milk
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 1 level tsp cream of tartar
• A few drops of vanilla essence
• 3 Bramley apples, peeled
• 1 tbs granulated sugar
• 4 tbs pine nuts
• 2 x 20cm cake tins
• Oven 170°C / 325°F / Gas 3

  1. Cut the apples into small dice shapes. In a bowl, cream together the caster sugar and butter.
  2. Now add the eggs and mix well. Fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar.
  3. Pour in the milk and vanilla essence and then mix in the apples.
  4. Transfer the mixture to two buttered 20cm cake tins, sprinkle with pine nuts and granulated sugar. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes.