Friday, 8 July 2016

Book Review: Fruit on the Table by Theresa Storey

Theresa Storey knows a thing or two about fruit; knowledge which she has acquired over many years making the wonderful jams, jellies, marmalades and chutneys for The Green Apron - the artisan preserve company she runs from the family farm in Ballingarry, County Limerick. The award-winning preserves are made in small batches by traditional methods using locally-sourced, organic produce where possible and without artificial preservatives, colours or setting agents. In Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen, her debut book, Theresa brings the reader on a fruit-filled culinary journey through the different seasons of the year and along the way shares some of her favourite recipes.

Fruit on the Table
Originally from Detroit, Theresa moved to Ireland as a young child with her family. Her parents had bought a small farm in County Clare and there they grew their own fruit and vegetables and kept livestock including chickens, ducks, geese, and sheep. Producing much of their own food meant that there were inevitable gluts so Theresa’s mother, Barbara, started making preserves in the late 1970s using the surplus fruit and vegetables. She sold the preserves locally and at the Milk Market in Limerick. Theresa, who qualified as a botanist took over the business in the 1990s and expanded it. These days The Green Apron also runs courses and workshops on sustainable living and all aspects of kitchen gardening. Topics covered on the courses include preserving, beekeeping and chicken-rearing amongst many others.
 
Apricot Cobbler heading into oven
Written in a relaxed and reassuring style, Fruit on the Table contains over one hundred easy-to-follow recipes and also includes loads of tips for growing, preserving and drying fruit. The book is structured around the fruit growing year and features fruit that grows here in Ireland but also includes recipes for some imported fruits - e.g. citrus fruits and bananas - as they are readily available and extremely popular. So, alongside recipes for Rhubarb & Coriander Meringue Pie, Strawberry Jam and Coronation Chicken are tempting recipes for Boozy Butterscotch Bananas, Lemon & Coconut Cake and Lamb & Fig Tagine. I couldn't wait to get stuck in and try some of them.
 
I decided to start with the Apricot Cobbler. Cobblers are most commonly made as desserts, but they can also take the form of savoury dishes where the filling is placed in a baking dish and topped with a batter or scone/biscuit topping before baking in the oven. In this inverted version the batter was mixed in the baking dish and then stoned and quartered fresh apricots were scattered on top. As it baked the batter turned into a delightful sponge with a crisp top and velvety smooth centre which rose up to surround the apricots. The cobbler was incredibly easy to make and I had it mixed up and in the pre-heated oven in less than ten minutes. The resulting dish was totally delicious and devoured by my family.

Buoyed by my success with the Cobbler, I then made the Pineapple & Rosemary Upside-Down Cake. Theresa Storey pairs rosemary with pineapple in this updated version of a family favourite and in her introduction to the recipe suggests that the two work well together with the woody herb adding a piney note against the caramelised fruit. I was intrigued and curious to try it out for myself.
Again, the recipe was simply laid out and easy-to follow. After peeling, coring and slicing my pineapple I laid it onto a base of melted butter and sugar in my cake tin. I then set about mixing up my cake batter which was made by the all-in-one method where all the ingredients (except the chopped rosemary) were placed into a bowl and mixed together. The rosemary was then folded in and once mixed through the batter was spread on top of the arranged pineapple before being baked in the oven for three quarters of an hour.

The only slightly tricky bit in the whole recipe was turning out the cake, but Storey recommends waiting ten minutes - no longer or the fruit may stick to the tin - so I followed her advice. The cake came out of the tin perfectly and looked gloriously resplendent with its upended topping of sticky caramelised pineapple. It was delicious to eat both as a dessert served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream but also cooled and enjoyed as a cake in its own right. I felt that the rosemary was an inspired addition.
 
Pineapple & Rosemary Upside-Down Cake
I find it impossible to resist anything that contains lemon. Some people are addicted to chocolate but lemon always makes me go weak-at-the-knees. I’m a huge fan of lemon curd but find it tedious to make -  lots of stirring for a long time to avoid the mixture turning into lemon-flavoured scrambled eggs. I had never considered making it in a microwave but this is exactly how the Lemon Curd is made in Fruit on the Table. I was convinced that it could not work. How wrong I was!
 
Containing only lemons, butter, eggs and sugar,  the recipe required that the ingredients were combined together before being cooked in 1 minute bursts in the microwave until the mixture had thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. I then poured it into a sterilised Kilner Jars which I allowed to cool before refrigerating. As it cooled it thickened further to create a perfect lemon curd. I couldn't believe that it could be so simple to make and given my love for this rich tangy preserve, it’s fair to say that I was more than a little bit excited by Theresa Storey’s amazing recipe.
 
Microwave Lemon Curd
I finished my recipe road-test with the Apple-Pie Filling which like all the recipes that I tried, was easy to prepare. I used store-bought Granny Smith apples which worked perfectly but later on in the year will use some of the fruit from the apples in my garden when they ripen. In this recipe the fruit was peeled, cored and chopped and then simmered in a sweet and spicy sauce before being allowed to cool. I stored the pie filling in a jar in the fridge and later used it to make an apple pie and as a topping for my morning porridge. Delicious!
 
From start-to-finish, Fruit on the Table is a joy to read. Theresa Storey’s passion for growing and cooking fruit is evident throughout the book. You really get the sense that she wants to de-mystify the whole subject and this she does brilliantly. All the recipes that I tried were easy to make and resulted in some truly tasty food. I love the way the recipes in the book follow the fruit growing and harvesting calendar as this makes the book one that you will refer to and cook from many times during the year. The recipes are accompanied by beautiful  photographs which were taken Valerie O’Connor, a food writer and photographer who was also responsible for the food styling.

Apple Pie Filling
The truth is that whilst fruit is readily available in our shops and supermarkets it is also relatively easy to grow. So many Irish families have an apple tree or rhubarb growing in their gardens. Glancing out my kitchen window as I sit here typing away, I can see the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes that I planted nearly a decade ago heavily laden with fruit that should be ready to pick in a couple of weeks time. I usually freeze a lot of the fruit or use it to make jams and jellies to see me through the winter months but now, armed with Theresa Storey’s book and using her recipes as inspiration, I will endeavour to use my crop in more inventive ways.
 
Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen is available to buy here.
Author: Theresa Storey
Hardback: 208 pages
ISBN: 9781847177773
Published by: O’Brien Press
 
Theresa Storey