Core values: Mark Hix cooks with apples

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The bad weather didn't help the apple harvest, but there are still plenty of varieties with which you can make tempting late-autumn dishes.

It’s been a shocking year for apple farmers and cider-makers. My friend Dominic has just informed me that he’s not had one single quince this year – and given that quince is such a robust fruit, that demonstrates that the weather must have been highly erratic and unusual. The mid-summer storms and floods and then short patches of sun can’t have helped at all.

Still, there are plenty of varieties of apples in the shops to tempt us to make some late-autumn recipes.

Crab apples, on the other hand, don’t seem to have been affected so badly; they are hardy little things and grow in the most obscure places, such as on the streets of London. When I used to live in De Beauvoir, there were no less than three different varieties of crab apples lining the streets.

Veal and Cox’s apple salad

Serves 4

British veal, now that it is responsibly farmed, is becoming more and more available in supermarkets and butchers. I’ve used the wing tip muscle from the rump here but you could use any cut that’s suitable for frying or grilling. You can use whatever dessert apples you like if you can’t get hold of Cox’s.

500-600g tender, lean veal, cut into  2-3cm-thick steaks
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium-sized dessert apples
A couple of handfuls of small, tasty salad leaves, washed and dried

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
½tbsp Tewkesbury or Dijon mustard
4tbsp cob nut or walnut oil

Heat a ribbed griddle or heavy frying pan, season the veal, add a little oil to the pan and cook the veal for 3-4 minutes on each side, keeping it nice and pink. While the veal is cooking, cut the apple into slices of about one-third of a cm thick around the core, then cut the slices into batons.

Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season to taste. Cut the veal into thin slices. Toss the salad leaves in the dressing and arrange on serving plates with the veal and scatter the apples on top.

Apple pie

Serves 4

A simple apple pie is very hard to beat. I was surprised to discover I’ve never made one in all the 10 years I’ve been doing this column – so here you go.

For the pastry

110g soft butter
135g caster sugar
225g strong flour
½tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
125ml double cream
1 egg, beaten to glaze

For the filling

4 dessert apples, peeled, cored and  roughly chopped
50g caster sugar
A good knob of butter
2 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

To serve

Clotted cream, crème fraîche or ice-cream

First, make the pastry. Mix the butter and sugar, sieve the baking powder and flour together and stir into the butter mix with the salt; then slowly pour in the cream until well mixed. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the dessert apples in a pan with the butter, sugar and a tablespoon of water and cook on a very low heat with a lid on for about 6-7 minutes. Remove the lid, add the Bramley apples and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes or until the Bramleys are beginning to break down. Remove from the heat, taste for sweetness and stir in some more sugar if necessary.

Roll the pastry out on a floured table to about 3mm thick. Cut 4 discs large enough to line 10cm x 3cm deep, individual tart tins. Cut 4 more discs to fit the tops. Lightly grease the tins with butter and line with the larger disc of pastry to just above the top of the tin. Leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the pastry from the fridge, line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans and bake for 10 minutes without colouring the pastry; then remove from the oven and leave to cool a little.

Spoon the apple mixture almost to the top of the pies, not putting in too much of the liquid. Brush the edges of the tops with the beaten egg then lay the tops on the pies, sealing the edges together with your fingers.

Brush the top with more egg, make a small slit or hole with the point of a knife in the centre, then bake the pies on a tray for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Turn the oven down a little if they begin to colour too much. Leave to rest for about 15 minutes before turning out of the moulds. Serve with any of the above.

Onion fritters with apple and green chilli relish

Serves 6-8 as a snack

These are pretty much the same as onion bhajis, but lighter and crisper than the big doughy versions you get in a lot of high-street curry houses.

Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

For the relish

1 green dessert apple, cored and  roughly chopped
1 large green chilli, chopped, seeds and all
1tbsp freshly grated ginger
A small handful of mint leaves
1tbsp greek yogurt

For the fritters

3 small onions, peeled
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp black mustard seeds
½tsp ground turmeric
1tbsp chopped coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp gram (chick pea) flour
3tbsp self-raising flour
Cold water to mix

Blend the apple, chilli, ginger and mint leaves in a food processor as smoothly as possible, then add the yogurt; blend again. Mix all of the ingredients together for the fritters and mix in enough water to make a light batter; season.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Using a tablespoon, drop a spoonful of the mixture into the fat as a tester.

Move around in the pan with a slotted spoon for a minute or so until golden, then transfer on to some kitchen paper. Taste and add more salt or adjust the consistency with more water if it’s stodgy.

You can briefly cook these without colouring them too much first, so they will just need a reheat in the hot fat when you serve them.

Grilled pig’s liver with mustard and crab apple sauce

Serves 4

Pig’s liver is a really under-used offal – treat it just like calf’s liver; it’s a fraction of the price and most butchers will be glad to get shot of it. Buy a whole one and use the rest in a salad or mince it up and make good old-fashioned faggots which are cheap and delicious.

There are various varieties of crab f apples and many of the streets in London were planted with crab apple trees which rarely get harvested; have a look – there might well be a tree near you.

4 slices of pig’s liver cut to about 1cm thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
60g butter
250-300g crab apples, washed and  stems removed
1-2tbsp caster sugar
2tbsp grain mustard
30-40g fresh white breadcrumbs,  lightly toasted
2tbsp chopped parsley

First, make the crab apple purée: put the crab apples in a saucepan with half of the sugar and a tablespoon of water, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 8-10 minutes or until they are soft. A mouli legume is the best way to purée these as it catches the tiny pips in the mesh, or you can just blend the fruit in a liquidiser until smooth. Taste the purée and add more sugar if necessary.

Melt half of the butter in a pan then  mix with the breadcrumbs and parsley,  and season.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan, season the liver on both sides and cook for about a minute and a half on each side on a high heat – adding a knob of butter while it’s cooking. Keep warm.

To serve, spread each slice of liver with mustard and spoon on the breadcrumb mixture. Spoon the crab apple purée on to warmed serving plates and spread it with the back of a spoon and place the liver on top.

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