Today is my Grandmother's 92nd birthday. She's a constant source of inspiration - both in the kitchen and in general. If I take up line dancing at 77 and still help hose down the cow shed at 92, and if I'm baking banana cakes with my granddaughter, and still mending clothes with my sewing machine, then I think I'd be pretty happy with myself. One thing I always enjoyed when visiting Gran's house growing up was her apple crumble, and in later years her apple pie - sometimes with the addition of lemon curd and/or blueberries, and the pastry being an easy food processor mixture.
Speaking of lemon curd, I had the pleasure of attending a pancake party on Sunday morning. The delightful flat that invited us had views of the beach with sunshine streaming in, and pancake toppings included butterscotch sauce, fresh blueberries, real maple syrup, poached peaches, nutella and melon balls, which was all served with coffee, orange juice, banter, banana cake, and the last scrapings of a homemade lemon curd which had those beautiful miniature black specks of real vanilla through it.
And speaking of vanilla and lemon and cake, the pancake party was followed up on Sunday afternoon with a tea party and coat show at the beautiful house also near the beach, of the owner of a beautiful clothes shop.
There were fresh flowers, delicious cakes, club sammies (brie and asparagus being the highlight), wine, sherry and beautiful beautiful clothes I unfortunately cannot afford. One friend purchased a very sassy winter wool coat, lined with silk. I just ate cake and drank wine in the sun.
And speaking of cake, in honour of Gran tonight I didn't make a cake - I indulged the flatmates and our current squatter with apple pie. Very similar to Gran's recipe, but this one is from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners. The apples were from my flatmate's Mum's tree, and the lemons from my workmate's tree. I'd like to say the eggs came from a free range hen out the back, but I freaking hate live chickens. The lemon zest in both the pastry and the apples really gives this pie a lift, as does the sprinkle of ginger. My pastry didn't roll out and stay together, so I just patchily laid it over the apples before egg-washing and baking. Jamie says it gives it a "rustic" look and who am I to argue with that.
Apple Pie (from Jamie Oliver's book Jamie's Dinners)
85g caster sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon (no longer is possession of a microplane, my zest was not fine at all)
2 egg yolks (remember you can keep the whites and use for meringues or something)
Put butter, flour, sugar and zest into a food processor. Whizz together, then add the egg yolk and a drop of water to bind it together. Butter a 20cm metal pie dish - I always just use my springform cake tin.
Divide dough into two, and roll half of it out on a flour-dusted surface. Lay the pastry into the pie dish. My rolled out pastry crumbled, so I just assembled it in the tin, with lots of pressing and spreading. Put the dish and the remaining dough in the fridge while you sort the apples.
5-6 apples - I always just use whatever I have, but Jamie suggests Braeburn or Cox's
3 tblsp demerara or muscavado sugar - both of which I never have in the cupboard, so I just used raw sugar
zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
a handful of sultanas or raisins, optional - in honour of my raisin hating friend, I omitted.
1 egg yolk, with a dash of milk added, for brushing
Peel the apples, and cut into eighths(ish). Toss them in a small pan with the sugar, lemon zest, ginger, a tblsp of water and raisins if you're using them. Simmer gently for 5 minutes or until apples are just tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely (I am always far too impatient for this, which I don't really think matters).
Remove pie dish and pastry from the fridge and pack the apples in tightly to the pan. Egg wash the pastry rim and then roll out the rest of the dough - again I just kind of patched it over with "rustic" gaps. Pinch the edges together and egg-wash the top. Make a couple of incisions if your top is in-tact, and bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Spoon out and serve with custard, ice cream or runny cream.
Happy birthday Grandma!