I am not in the best of spirits today. To be honest I think I should be in bed under the covers, a mug of hot water laced with lemon juice, honey and cider vinegar by my bed, next door to the huge box of tissues and paracetamol. If it wasn’t for the fact that by necessity I had to take my son to school this morning, my heavy, aching head would have stayed firmly stuck to the pillow at least until 3.00pm this afternoon.
However, I am aware that because of last week’s half term, combined with having bug ridden husband at home, I have been a little slack with my posts of late so I feel compelled to write something to keep my readers happy.
I had in mind to write something about my childhood memories of an old apple orchard that used to be in a field opposite my parent’s house. Long ago bulldozed and turned into a row of instantly forgettable, badly designed housing, I can still remember illicit forays into the shade of the old gnarled trees and summer games of hide and seek and dare with the neighbourhood children.
But my head is still spinning after reading a clip from Joanna Blythman’s shortly to be released book Swallow This: Serving Up The Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets. It does not matter how many times I read these sort of articles or watch documentaries about the machinations of the food industry, I am still shocked by just how much the public is hoodwinked into thinking what they are eating is perfectly fresh, unadulterated food, when in fact it is anything from natural. And of course the bottom line is this is all to save the manufacturer money.
The simple top crust apple pie, full of homely goodness that satisfies the soul and the belly, a staple of my mother’s kitchen and millions of home cooks all over the world. That first slice of light crisp pastry, removed carefully to reveal the steam billowing out of the voluptuous, soft inner of the cooked apples is truly a sight for sore eyes.
Home, a mother’s love, comfort and joy all represented in this simplest of desserts made for hundreds of years by mothers far and wide. It doesn’t matter how old we are, if we are lucky enough to have had a mother who cared for us when we were poorly (I am well aware that not everyone is as blessed as I am in the mother department) at times of weakness we hanker after that mother’s love.
Yesterday was such a day for me and this made me feel a little bit closer to my mum, even though, through no fault of her own, she hasn’t been able to make me one of her wonderful pies for years.
To turn the coin on the other side, this humblest of puddings has probably been the unwitting cause of life-long grudges, friendships, fall-outs and threats of wooden spoons at dawn amongst the doyens of village fetes and WI gatherings. Soggy bottoms, rumours of bought pastry and whispers of favouritism for the vicar’s wife’s efforts have no doubt been the topic of apple pie competitions since time immemorial.
Anyway, I digress, back to the real point. This top crust apple pie, made by my own fair hand has four ingredients, five if you count water to bind the pastry.
3. Bramley Apples
And a very nice apple pie it is too.
Now, you could make this if it took your fancy. Obviously it depends on whether you like apple pie or not. It takes less then 2 minutes to whizz the pastry together in a processor. A couple of minutes to peel and slice the apples, 5 minutes or so to roll out the pastry and about 30 minutes to cook. And it is delicious.
Or, you could buy a packet of exceedingly good shop bought apple pies to serve to your family. You are in luck if your family consists of two, three or six people so you can have an equal number of pies each. Or the whole lot to yourself perhaps.
This is the ingredients list.
3. Vegetable Oils (Palm, Rapeseed)
4. Diced Bramley Apple
5. Bramley Apple Puree
6. Glucose Syrup
8. Humectant (Vegetable Glycerine)
9. Modified Maize Starch
11. Acid (Malic Acid)
13. Raising Agents (Disodium Diphosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate)
14. Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Metabisulphite
15. Sulphur Dioxide
16. Milk Protein
17. Whey Powder
I know which one I would rather eat.
I am not saying the bought pies taste horrible or are any better or worse than the next pie to come out of a factory. In fact, according to the four reviews on Ocado they are very nice indeed. And I have not chosen these for any particular reason other than I had already made the apple pie so I chose the best selling apple pie in Great Britain to compare it to.
This is why I cook.
Apart from the fact that I love cooking and anything to do with good, real, food. I like to know what I am eating and what I am feeding my family. It is my choice how much salt, fat and sugar we eat and what form that sugar takes. I don’t have to worry about the sell by date on my pie, I know it will be gone very quickly so I don’t need a whole host of extra preservatives. I don’t feel the need to add ingredients to make it thicker (like wallpaper paste) or stop it drying out (like a moisturiser). The fresh apples have all the flavour they need without an additive to bring out the sour taste of the fruit or any extra flavouring for that matter, however ‘natural’.
Ooh, I can feel myself veering off into a rant which is not a good thing on a Monday morning so I shall leave it at that.
Anyway, here is the recipe for a good, old fashioned top crust apple pie. No need to worry about the pastry going soggy on the bottom as it only has a top crust. Feel free to add a little grated lemon zest, sultanas, cinnamon or whatever your personal preference. I just like a plain pie, slightly on the tart side (winky, as I call it) which will marry well with some home made ice-cream or custard.
- 170g Flour
- 120g Cold Unsalted Butter, cubed
- Approx 4 Tbs cold water
- 3-4 Bramley apples
- 4 Tbs caster sugar, extra for dusting
- Make the pastry in a food processor.
- Whizz together the butter and flour then add the water to make a soft, smooth dough.
- Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge.
- Turn the oven on to 180C (400f)
- Peel and core the apples and slice.
- Put them in a microwavable bowl and cook for 2 minutes.
- Mix in the sugar and leave to cool.
- Put the pie bird in the middle of the dish and put in the apples.
- Roll out the pastry to slightly larger than the dish.
- Dampen the edge of the pie dish.
- Cut small strips of pastry and stick them to the edge. This will help the top stick.
- Lay over the remaining pastry. Press down to seal the edges.
- Cut off any excess with a sharp knife and using the blunt side make indentations around the edge of the pie.
- If you are feeling arty use the excess pastry to make some decorations and stick them on with a little water.
- Make a small hole in the pastry on top of the pie bird.
- Cook for approx. 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
- Dredge with a little sugar.