How do you like them apples

There’s a lot to love about apples. Whether you prefer crisp and crunchy, tart or sweet, for eating or cooking, there’s an apple to suit every taste. Even though I eat apples all year, I always look out for new season’s apples in autumn, which I enjoy the most. Farmer’s markets are a great place to find some of the less known varieties. Not as uniformly perfect or polished as their commercial counterparts, these apples, with their quirky names of yesteryear are full of character and have a beauty and charm of their own.

When buying apples, choose those with skin that is firm and smooth to touch. They should be stored in the refrigerator to stay crisp for up to 2 weeks, although some apples, like Granny Smith’s, can be stored longer.

Apples are perfectly suited to cooking, and the cool autumn weather provides the perfect excuse for whipping up one of these warm treats.

 

 

Tarte Tatin

 

A delicious, upside down apple tart.  Your frypan will need an ovenproof handle. Golden Delicious apples are perfect for this job, as they hold their shape.

 

7 – 8 Golden Delicious apples

50g butter

half cup caster sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 star anise

400g puff pastry  (I like Careme brand)

1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 200C.

Peel apples and cut into quarters, removing the cores.

Melt butter in an ovenproof 22 – 25cm frypan and sprinkle half the sugar over the base. Place vanilla and star anise in bottom of pan, then pack in the apples tightly. Note that they will soften and sink a little as they cook.

Sprinkle over remaining sugar and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes until the bottom looks golden. Remove from heat.

Roll out the pastry and place over the apples. Trim around the edges with a small sharp knife, using the outside of the frypan as a guide and discard the excess pastry. Tuck the pastry inside the rim of the frypan, so the pastry surrounds the apples. Prick lightly with a fork, brush with beaten egg and bake in oven until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Place a large serving plate over the pan and carefully turn upside down. The tart will release from the pan and any extra juices will drizzle over the apples. If a piece of apple becomes stuck in the pan, gently remove it and press it into the tart.

Serve hot with cream or ice cream.

Serves 4-6.

Mum’s apple pie

Actually, my Mum makes her apple pie with Granny Smith’s, as they dissolve into a soft puree, but I love the sweetness of these red varieties. However, I haven’t messed with her pastry –it’s easy and reliable and makes a good, crisp crust.

 

8 red apples (Fuji, Pink lady or Jazz)

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

zest 1 lemon

½ cup caster sugar + 2 tbsp extra

1cup self raising flour

1cup plain flour

pinch salt

125g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

1 egg yolk

golden caster sugar to sprinkle over the top

Peel and core apples. Cut into thick slices. Place in a medium pan with vanilla, star anise, cinnamon, lemon zest and ½ cup sugar. Add ¼ cup water, cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 20 minutes until soft (add a little extra water if the apples look too dry). Set aside to cool. Remove vanilla pod, cinnamon and star anise and discard.

Sift flours together with 2 tbsp extra caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Rub butter into flour until it forms crumbs. Beat egg yolk with 2 tbsp cold water and add to the mixture. Knead gently until it forms a dough. Wrap in cling wrap and place in fridge for 20 minutes to rest.

Preheat oven to 200C.

Grease the base and sides of a 23cm deep pie dish with softened butter.

Cut pastry into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other (for the base and top). Roll out the larger piece to approx. 26cm and line the bottom and sides of the dish.

Place cooled apple filling in the pie.

Roll out the remaining pastry and place over the top of the filling. Press the edges together with your fingers to seal. Trim around the edge with the back of a small sharp knife to neaten. Use a fork to press indentations into the pastry edge. Make a vent in the middle of the pie with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Sprinkle over golden caster sugar.

Bake in oven for 35 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cream.

Serves 6-8.

Apple fritters

 

Give extra flavour to your fritters by infusing the apples beforehand. I have used maple syrup, as it’s a family favourite.

 

4 red apples

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 large egg

½ cup milk

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

200ml sour cream

1 cup self raising flour

vegetable oil for frying

icing sugar for dusting

Peel and core apples*. Slice horizontally into 1 cm thick rounds.

Place in a shallow dish and pour over maple syrup. Set aside to allow the flavour to infuse into the apples.

In a medium bowl, mix egg, milk, sugar, spices and sour cream. Add flour and mix until smooth.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy bottomed deep pan to 190C.

Remove apple slices from maple syrup, drain any excess syrup off and lightly pat dry.

Dip apple slices into the batter to coat completely, then deep fry in hot oil for 2 minutes each side. Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining fritters. Dust heavily with icing sugar and serve warm.

Serves 4.

*you will need an apple corer that can be pushed through the centre of the apple, to remove the core. If you don’t have a corer, you can still make the fritters by cutting the apples into thick wedges.

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How to cook the perfect steak

Look in the current Better Homes and Gardens magazine for this article.

Basics –How to cook the perfect steak

 

Crisp and caramelised on the outside, juicy and tender within, the perfect steak can be yours, any night of the week. Follow these easy steps to find out how.

1. Choose your steak

 

There are several choice cuts from which to choose:

Eye fillet/beef tenderloin –cut from the loin. The most tender piece of meat, with a mild flavour.

Sirloin/Porterhouse-cut from the thicker end of the loin. Very tender and highly prized cut with just the right amount of fat and marbling.

T-bone steak-cut from the short loin. Contains both the striploin (porterhouse) and tenderloin (eye fillet) with a t shaped bone in between. The best of both worlds with a bone to keep the meat moist.

Rib eye/ Scotch fillet- from the rib section of the beef. Can be cut with the bone in. Lovely marbling, tender and great flavour.

Rump- cut from the rump section, this steak is considered to have the best flavour, however it is not as tender.

2. Bring the steak to room temperature

Take the steak out of the fridge, season with salt and pepper, cover loosely and allow it to come to room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Brush with oil

Brush the steak with a little olive oil as this will stop it from sticking to the pan. It will help to seal the surface and ensure that it caramelises to a lovely deep brown colour, giving more flavour. Any marbling (little streaks of fat running through the meat) will help the meat remain moist during cooking.

 

4. Preheat the grill or pan to very high heat

It is really important to get your pan or grill as hot as you can. Don’t add oil to the pan as it will smoke and burn. Use a heavy based pan or cast iron grill. A hot barbecue is perfect.

5. Cook on both sides following the times below:

Don’t be tempted to turn the steaks until good searing marks are achieved. The meat is ready to turn when it comes away easily from the grill. Thicker steaks can be turned several times, as this helps ensure even cooking whilst keeping the meat moist.

Based on a 2 cm thick sirloin/porterhouse steak in a very hot grill pan:

Blue                                    -1 minute each side

Rare                                    -1 ½ minutes each side

Medium rare                        -2 minutes each side

Medium                        -2 ¼ minutes each side

Medium well-done            -2 ½ -3 minutes each side

For a failsafe test, use a digital instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat:

Rare                                    35C

Medium rare                        45C

Medium                        55C

Medium well done            75C

 

No thermometer? Use the tried and true “thumb to finger test” for doneness:

Test the steak by pressing with your finger. The more yielding under pressure, the rarer the steak.

Use the little trick of feeling the fleshy base of your thumb as you touch it to the fingers of your hand:

thumb to index finger                         -rare

thumb to middle finger            -medium rare

thumb to ring finger                        -medium

thumb to little finger                         -medium well done

This is what the steak will feel like when you press it with your finger too.

 

6. Allow the steak to rest.

You must let the steak rest for about 3 minutes to allow the juices that have been drawn to the surface to relax back into the meat. Cover with foil to prevent heat from escaping.

Grilled steak with Café de Paris butter

 

You can make the butter ahead of time and keep it in the freezer. It’s a very useful recipe when you have leftover herbs. Simply slice and serve over any variety of grilled meats or fish. Also delicious over hot, boiled potatoes.

preparation time: 10 minutes + 2 hours refrigerating

cooking time: 6 minutes

serves 4

250g unsalted butter, softened

50g parsley, finely chopped

20g tarragon, finely chopped

5 g sage, finely chopped

10g basil, finely chopped

1 eschalot, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced

4 anchovy fillets

juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp curry powder

4 x sirloin steaks

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

French fries to serve

Fresh green salad, to serve

Make the herb butter first: mix the butter with the herbs, eschalot, garlic, anchovy, lemon juice and curry powder.

Place a sheet of cling film on the kitchen bench and pile the butter mixture on top. Shape into a log, then roll into a cylinder, tucking in the ends of the cling film.

Chill in the fridge for 2 hours (or freeze).

Season steaks with salt and pepper and set aside to come to room temperature.

Heat grill pan over high heat until really hot. Brush steaks with oil, then cook steak for 2-3 minutes each side, or until done to your liking.

Remove from heat and rest for 3 minutes, lightly covered with foil.

Place on serving plate with a thick slice of herb butter.

Serve with French fries and salad.

serves 4.