As promised, this week we’re going fruit picking. Not literally, though I envy those with a mini-orchard (one apple tree qualifies) in their garden. We used to have two apple trees bearing fabulous fruit, every other year each (so clever!), but it turns out apple trees have a limited lifespan and when very old, they just sit there doing nothing. Just like people.
Now I have to buy apples from the market, but worryingly, there is quite a shortage of British apples. My weekly fruit and veg stall, usually the proper job with cheap, ripe produce rather than, like some, competing in prices and looks with the local Waitrose, had stacks of Chilean and New Zealand fruit and no native ones the other week. Is it the shortage of pickers? Is it the cost of transport (surely cheaper from Kent than South America)? Is it Putin?
As it turns out, it’s probably the mother of all droughts we are still recovering from. But this week Coxes have turned up, so hopefully Braeburns and Granny Smiths will follow suit now that the rain has made it look like the middle of summer again.
Once we manage to secure some apples, there is so much more we can do than just an apple pie, though that is de rigeur each autumn. A simple apple galette will be gorgeous for the weekend, or an easy Norwegian epplekake. Consider baking a loaf of cider and apple bread, and with some fruit still going spare, make a jar of fantastic apple marmalade.
Pears always seem second best to apples, unfairly. Enough to try the sticky pear and ginger cake to convince you of their value. And they go well in savoury dishes too: with blue cheese, as an appetiser, or with halloumi and roast parsnips in a warm main course salad.
Peaches can grow in the UK, which I didn’t know but was pleased to hear: another native fruit to use in jams or as salsa for a chicken salad. Like pears, they also go famously with blue cheese.
And grapes: my favourite crimson variety is starting to appear, and apart from eating them raw, you can use grapes in cooking. Chicken and grape traybake is a wonderful, easy dinner; lamb breast with grapes and raisins is a little more involved but absolutely gorgeous. Lamb breast by the way is a totally underrated cut, and cheap as chips. But of course, salads with grapes should not be missed: feta, grapes and walnuts, a simply excellent combination.
I am pleased to see that this week’s fruit issue is not all just about cakes and jams! Shows how versatile we can be in cooking. Though cakes must absolutely not be overlooked either – so happy baking!