AT THIS time of year the fields or edible gardens can be quite barren. Spring has not yet set in and most of the traces of a winter harvest are gone.
Irish apples are one fail-safe that you will still find in markets and shops.
They generally have a lovely rosy-red hue and are slightly waxy to touch.
That warm blush, which I associate with being sun-kissed, is in fact the result of Ireland’s temperate climate.
Temperatures must stay relatively cool for an apple to keep its red hue.
I use apples all year round but even more so when there are not as many other local fruits available.
They are very versatile, most can be eaten as is, or stewed or baked, and they can sit softly beneath a crumble or pertly adorn a French tart.
Cooking apples are primarily for cooking and it is not advisable to eat them raw as they can have a sharper taste and if rumour is correct, can give you a pain in your tummy.
Cookers may not be readily available at this time of year so all of the recipes below can be made with any slightly tart apple variety.
The puff-pastry apple roses are a little fiddly to make but giveelegant results.
The date and apple pudding, on the other hand, is all about warm, sweet sloppiness rather than elegance.
It is good served with custard or whipped cream.
225g of self-raising flour
2 tsp of baking powder, sieved
225g of soft butter
210g of golden caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp of ground cinnamon
200g of apples, cored, peeled and grated and another 200g cored, and sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 180C , line an 8-inch round, loose base or spring-form, cake tin with parchment.
Sieve the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until turning pale, slowly add in the eggs and then the flour.
Spread just over half of the cake mixture into the tin, using a wet knife if you wish.
On top of this spread the grated apple (do not press it into the cake mixture), then top with the rest of the mixture.
Lay the apple slices on top of the cake batter and sprinkle with the cinnamon, and add a sprinkle of the golden caster sugar as well if you wish.
Bake for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes. If the apple slices start to brown too much place a cover over the cake as it is baking.
Allow to cool in the tin until it is cool enough to handle and then place on a wire rack.
2 tsp of sun flower oil
100g of muscovado sugar
140g of self raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder, sieved
1 pinch of ground sea salt
2 tsp of ground nutmeg
80g of golden caster sugar
200mls of milk
80g of butter melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 apples, peeled cored and cut into chunks
60g of dates, destoned and roughly chopped
Pre-heat your oven to 180C and rub the oil onto an oven-proof dish which is approximately two litres in size.
Melt the muscovado sugar in 200mls of water and set aside.
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and sugar until they are really well combined.
Mix the milk, melted butter and egg until they too are combined.
Stir the two mixtures together until a smooth batter is formed.
Stir the chunks of apple and dates through and scoop the mixture into the prepared dish.
Pour the muscovado sugar mixture over the cake batter and bake for 60 minutes.
Allow to cool in the dish and be careful scooping it out as it will be gooey.
4 apples, cored and thinly sliced into semicircular shaped slices
The juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp of apricot jam
3 tsp of rose water
1 sheet of puff pastry, cut into long strips about 8cm in width
Pre-heat your oven to 190C. Grease and flour eight holes in a muffin tin.
Place the apple slices in a shallow saucepan of water and add the lemon juice.
Bring to a simmer over a low heat and once the water simmers remove it from the heat straight away.
You just want to very gently soften the apples but they should not lose their shape or texture.
Mix the apricot jam and rose water together, add another 3 tsp of warm water to loosen the mixture.
Lay a strip of puff pastry horizontally in front of you. Spread a line of the apricot mixture along the centre of the strip of pastry.
Place the apple slices in an over lapping line on top half of the pastry strip.
Fold the bottom of the strip of pastry up over the apple slices so they are held together with the jam and the rounded top of the apple slice (were the skin is visible) is sticking out above the folded pastry.
Roll the pastry up so that it sits into the bun tin and the apple slices resemble a rose.
Repeat with the other seven strips of pastry and then bake for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin.