Ballyknocken House & Cookery School, Wicklow
The freshest apples are available here early October but what truly reminds me that the autumn has arrived is that wonderful smell of baked apple cake to cheer up the chilly season. Our apple cake recipe is slightly different – it is prepared with olive oil, which keeps it wonderfully moist. It will keep for days (if you can resist eating it!!!) The relish is also one of our favourite and the recipes makes several jars which you can give to friends.
People have been eating apples for centuries. The ancestor of the modern apple, is the malus sieversii which still grows in the wild. It is a small red apple. Believe it or not, the apple is a member of the rose family! There are 7500 different cultivars in the world today hence apples are available to us all year around.
“An apple a day keeps the Doctor away” – well, there is some truth in this. Apples have a great amount of vitamin C and fibre as well as several other antioxidant compounds.
Purchase well coloured and firm apples. The skin should be smooth without any bruises.
Before cooking or eat apples, lightly brush under cool running water.
Apples will discolor very quickly if left open to the air. To avoid this, sprinkle lemon juice over.
Ideally, store apples in a cool, dry, dark place. They will keep up to 3 / 4 weeks depending on the variety. If you wish to place them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge, keep them wrapped in a plastic bag. These should only be kept there for a few days.
There is a great encouragement to conserve the old varieties of apples in the orchards. Keep an eye out when next you visit your local market or even purchase an apple tree at your local garden centre.
A few examples are:
An Cairn Russet. This produces in October and November. It has yellow / white flesh, and is a sweet, medium sized fruit. The skin is almost covered with a golden brown / russet. It keeps very well.
Lady’s Fingers – Produces in October. A lovely firm sweet green / white flesh. It is also small to medium in size. It is oblong in shape hence the name.
Kilkenny Pearmain. These also produce in October / November. They are a crisp, sweet, mild fruit with red tinge and has been grown in Ireland since 1831.
Apples are very versatile, simply baked whole with cinnamon, cloves and honey or added in a flan, tart or apple cake. Sliced into discs and caramelized served with pork. Roasted with sweet potato wedges and sprinkled with nutmeg and brown sugar or combined with tomatoes or mangoes to form a relish or chutney.
Apple Cake Made with Oil
Torta di mele all’Olio
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1_tsp baking soda or bicarbonate of soda
115g golden raisins or sultanas
150ml olive oil
200g golden granulated caster sugar
2 large eggs
_tsp baking powder
500g peeled and small diced desert apples
1 lemon rind grated
Turn the oven on to heat up at 180ºc.
Place the sultans/raisins in a bowl of warm water and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
Pour the olive oil into a bowl with the caster sugar and beat until they blend. Add in the 2 eggs one at a time and beat until the volume of the mixture has increased and resembles a thin mayonnaise.
Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda/bicarbonate of soda, salt and baking powder together. Then gradually add in to the oil and sugar mixture, folding in with a metal spoon. Mix thoroughly. Add in the lemon rind and diced apples into the mixture.
Remove the raisins/sultanas from the water, drain and dry and add to the mixture. Mix the mixture very thoroughly. The mixture should be stiff at this stage.
Butter and flour a 20cm spring form cake pan and spoon in the mixture. Bake for at least 1 hour, until a skewer placed in the middle cones out dry. Remove the cake from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Makes 10 x 450g jars of relish
3.4kg ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped
450g chopped onions
450g eating apples
900ml white malt vinegar
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp ground black pepper
3 tsp all spice
4 crushed cloves of garlic
1 level tsp cayenne pepper
Prepare all the ingredients.
Put all the ingredients into a large wide stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil.
Simmer steadily until the mixture has reduced and is slightly thick. This will take approx 1 hour.
Pot in sterilized jars
Strawberries, everyone loves them. Not only are they so enticing by their vibrant colour, their sharp but sweet flavour but also they really do exude a feeling of summer. And here at Ballyknocken Cookery School, we have two lovely strawberry beds, which happily feed guests and the family. And they are so easy to grow, so if you have a little vacant spot in your garden, do consider planting them! Enjoy the recipes
Those fragrantly sweet, red berries always brighten up the summer. It is no wonder that they are the most popular berry fruit in the world. Strawberries have grown wild since the ancient Romans but were only propagated in the 18th century.
There are more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in size, flavour and texture but one can usually identify them by that red flesh with yellow seeds on the surface. Strawberries that are cultivated in the wild are generally smaller and have a more intense flavour.
They are not just pretty faces – they are packed with vitamins to promote good healthy lifestyles. Strawberries, like other berries are a rich source of phenols - a heart protective fruit - full of vitamin C, manganese, fibre, iodine, folate, vitamins B2, B5, B6 and K, Omega 3, magnesium and copper.
Strawberries are very perishable, they should only be purchased a day or 2 before being used. Choose berries that a firm, red, free of mould and plump. Take great care in handling them and before storing in the fridge remove any berries that have mould on them. Store unwashed and unhulled. They will only keep for 2 days in the fridge. Do not expose to sunlight for too long.
To freeze strawberries:
First wash them and pat dry. Remove the stem and arrange on a baking tray. Freeze. Once frozen – transfer to a plastic bag.
They should only be washed just before eating. Only remove the stems (by pinching off with your fingers or use a small paring knife) after they have been washed to prevent them absorbing too much water. Pat dry.
Some quick ideas
Add slices to mixed green salad together with salmon slices.
Layer slices of strawberry, whole blueberries, blackberries and plain yoghurt in a pretty glass to make a healthy parfait!
Mix chopped strawberries with lemon juice and a little syrup for a topping on pancakes or even a Victoria sponge.
Blend strawberries and bananas with plain yoghurt and ice to make a smoothie.
Add balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and brown sugar to strawberries for a delicious dessert with vanilla ice cream.
Dip half a strawberry into chocolate and serve with small meringues with coffee.
Equal parts sugar and strawberries and a dash of lemon to form a yummy strawberry jam.
Summer Strawberries with Chocolate & Meringue
284 ml carton double cream
100 g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
550 g strawberries (or mixed summer fruits such as raspberries, blueberries)
1 tbsp icing sugar
6 – 8 small meringues
Heat the cream in a saucepan until just coming to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add in the chocolate pieces and then stir until melted. Quarter the strawberries, holding some back for decoration.
Add the sugar and most of the strawberries to the saucepan and mix gently. Allow to cool.
Spoon a little chocolate / strawberry mixture into 4 - 6 glasses, layer with meringues, cream and chocolate / strawberry mixture. Ending with cream.
Dust with a little cocoa or a strawberry.
Fresh Strawberry Bread
Makes 1 loaf
150g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
350g plain flour
1 tsp bread soda (baking soda)
1 tsp salt
_ tsp baking powder
5 tbsp water
75g chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 180˚C / Gas 4
Butter a 900g / 2 lb loaf tin.
Crush strawberries and pour into a small saucepan to heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar and butter together and then add the eggs and water, mixing until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well enough to blend, but don't over mix. Stir in the crushed strawberries and walnuts.
Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. When the loaf has cooled in the tin for 10 minutes, turn onto a rack to cool further.
250g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
150g fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Chill.