There are times when I think it is all too easy to forget the reason why certain dishes and recipes have stood the test of time and have been popular for generations. These days we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the range of ingredients that are easily available to buy and as a result, I think that there is a desire to create increasingly weird and wacky recipes to use these ingredients in new and supposedly innovative ways. Doubtlessly, it is good to experiment and try out new ideas, because it is easy to get stuck in a culinary rut but different or new doesn’t always result in delicious! The reality is that unusual ingredients combinations often need the knowledge and skill of an experienced cook in order to become something amazing on the plate!
In addition to the wealth of ingredients now available, many processes that previously could only be carried out in a well-kitted out professional kitchen can now be attempted on a smaller scale in home kitchens by the enthusiastic, amateur home cook. Water baths, vacuum packing machines, so-called molecular gastronomy kits and a whole range of other equipment has been scaled down and can be purchased -often at a reasonable cost- for use at home.
In this relentless pursuit of the unusual, people often eschew old reliable dishes that they have been cooking for years; foods that are simple to make and taste wonderful. I have also been guilty of this! However, there are times when you cook or bake one of these dishes and you are reminded that they have so much going for them!
Yesterday, my gang were looking forward to sitting down in front of the TV and watching Ireland take on England in the Six Nations rugby match taking place in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Both teams were unbeaten in the championship thus far so it was always going to be interesting to see which team would prevail in this showdown. The weather was cold and snowy outside so watching the sporting battle that was about to take place whilst sitting on a comfortable couch in front of a warm fire seemed an attractive option. About an hour before the match was due to start, I decided that it would be nice to have something tasty to eat during the match.
I had initially toyed with the idea of making an Apple & Blackberry Meringue Tart, but knew it would not be ready in time for the beginning of the match and I was determined not to miss a minute of the action. Given that I had a load of cooking apples, I briefly considered making an Apple Crumble, but decided instead to make Eve’s Pudding an old childhood favourite that I hadn’t made in years.
This is such a simple pudding to make and the resulting dish, which is basically baked apples topped with a light sponge, is so much more than the sum of its parts. The recipe that I use is based on the one that my grandmother had handwritten into the back of one of her old cookery books, but with the important addition of finely grated lemon zest and lemon juice. I find that the inclusion of the lemon prevents the pudding from seeming too sweet and at the same time really accentuates the flavour of the apples. This pudding is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t let these wonderful old recipes fall into oblivion.
Serve with a dollop of lightly whipped fresh cream or some warm custard and you will have the most wonderfully delicious dish, which from start to finish was ready in under an hour, so I didn’t miss a moment of the match!!! (For the record, the final score was Ireland 19 – 9 England).
500g Bramley cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
75g caster sugar
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
75g butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
75g caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
100g self-raising flour
25g flaked almonds
A little icing sugar for dusting
Method:1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Generously butter a medium sized baking dish (about 5-6ms high with a 1litre capacity) and set aside.
2. Place the sliced apples, caster sugar, water and zest and juice of 1 lemon in the prepared baking dish and mix together so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Level the surface of the apples as much as you can and place the dish on a baking tray. Set aside while you make the sponge.
3. Place the butter and caster sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mix beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg beating well after each addition. Finally mix in the flour, but do not over-mix as this will result in a heavier sponge.
4. Drop teaspoons of the mixture evenly over the apples and spread out with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Don’t worry too much if there are small gaps as the sponge mixture will rise to cover these during baking. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top of the sponge.
5. Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 35-40 minutes until the sponge is well risen and a deep golden brown and the apple juices are beginning to bubble around the edge of the pudding. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving, dusted with a little icing sugar, if desired.