Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Grandma's apples (part 1)

"Strong winds in the South West tonight" said the weather man, as I sipped my cocoa, and snuggled into my slippers, the night before setting off for Grandma's little patch of paradise, over looking the mouth of the River Ex.

He wasn't wrong. I arrived at Grandma's to find a garden full of windfall, a spotted blanket of Gala's and Cox's, spread across the lawn. Eager to put nature's bounty to good use, I returned to Dorset with bags full of tart, crunchy apples, and the beginnings of an idea for dinner...

Apple, shallot and Dorset Blue Vinnie tart

Rich, autumnal flavours, working in perfect harmony. The piquant blue cheese is the ideal compliment the slow-roasted sweetness of the apples and shallots. Use bought pastry if you like, but the whole meal homemade version adds a fitting rustic edge (literally) to this dish.

Serves four as a light main

For the pastry
250g whole meal plain flour
a pinch salt
125g butter, cut into chunks, at fridge temperature
1 egg yolk
50 ml milk

For the filling
four to six apples, peeled and quartered
four to six banana shallots, peeled and quartered
a few sage leaves, sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper
three whole eggs, lightly beaten
a dash of milk
200g Dorset Blue Vinnie or other blue cheese

First, make the pastry. In a mixing bowl, rub together the flour, salt and butter so the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (you can also do this in a food processor). Add the egg yolk, and a dash of the milk and mix together. A little at a time, add more milk until the mixture comes together into a dough. If you add too much milk, add a little more flour. Turn out, form into a ball, wrap in cling film, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to medium. In a baking tray, toss the apples, shallots and sage in olive oil, and season. Roast for 20 - 30 minutes until soft, sweet, and almost caramelised.

Roll out the pastry to cover a 25cm pastry tin. Prick the pastry with a fork, then cover with greaseproof paper and rice or baking beans, and blind bake for 15 minutes until just golden. Remove from the oven.

Arrange the apples and shallots into the pastry case, then whisk together the remaining eggs and milk and season. Pour over the apples and shallots. Break the blue cheese into chunks, and dot over the tart, tucking into the filling where you can. Bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes until the egg mixture is set, and the cheese has melted.

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