The premise of this recipe is so simple; the apple is peeled and cored, stuffed with fruit, nuts or whatever takes your fancy, is then wrapped in a snug blanket of shortcrust pastry and baked in the oven until golden brown and the apple is cooked through.
I still had some of my homemade mincemeat left over from Christmas so decided to use that to stuff my apples. I also added a good glug of Amaretto as its almond flavour really complements the flavour of the mincemeat, and…well… basically because I love it! You could use an apple flavoured brandy instead. Also, if you are not a fan of mincemeat or dried fruits, you could stuff the apples with a mixture of brown sugar, cake crumbs, chopped marzipan or nuts. Basically anything that takes your fancy. I would recommend that whatever you choose should have some substance to it and not be too liquid or inclined to melt in the heat of the oven, but essentially this is a recipe where you can use up those ingredients that you have lurking at the back of the kitchen cupboard. As such, it is one that appeals to me greatly.
I love mincemeat and thought that it added just the right amount of sweetness in this recipe, whilst still allowing the flavour of the apples to shine through. All too often we can fall into the trap of thinking that complicated cooking is better cooking – this is not necessarily the case. What is important is using the ingredients that you have to hand and cooking them well to produce great tasting dishes. Yes, I love dramatic dishes and particularly love the challenge of cooking technically demanding dishes, but they have to taste delicious or what is the point?
I served my dumplings with clotted cream, but ice-cream or custard would work equally well.
4 medium sized cooking apples, peeled and cored
200g plain flour
1tblsp icing sugar
120g butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg yolk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk, sprinkle in the water and using a fork, or your hands mix until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
2. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work-surface and knead briefly and shape into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling-film and place in the fridge for about half an hour to rest.
To prepare the apples:
3. Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6. Line a baking tray with a sheet of non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
4. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out thinly using a rolling pin. Cut out four pastry squares, large enough to encase each apple completely.
5. Mix the Amaretto through the mincemeat in a small bowl.
6. Place each apple in the centre of each of the squares and spoon the mincemeat mixture evenly between the cored out centres of the apples. Brush the edges of each pastry square with a little water and draw up, pressing the pastry edges together to completely encase each apple. Turn the apples over so that the joins are on the bottom and place evenly spaced apart on the lined baking tray.
7. Cut a small hole in the middle of the pastry at the top of each apple. Brush with a little of the beaten egg and use any pastry off-cuts to decorate with leaves if desired.
8. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35 minutes until golden brown all over.
9. Remove form the oven and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a little clotted cream or if you want to really up the comfort stakes….some warm home-made custard!