Spiced Apple Strudel

December 7th, 2011

Spiced Apple Strudel

The summer warmth lingered longer than usual this year and November saw days brightened by a lemon sun hanging low in the sky. I enjoyed its presence, spending time sitting out in the garden, opening the windows to let the air flow through the house, taking lunchtime strolls. In this Indian summer I lost my sense of time; when the colder weather finally, and quite suddenly, blew in I felt a little disorientated, like waking up from a hazy dream. Is it really December? Christmas is on its way? Where did the time go?

As the cold air touched my cheeks and fingertips and brought me back to the here and now I embraced the new sense of season I had. Gloves and scarves were taken out of their storage box, Christmas lights hung, gifts purchased and candles lit.

And now I’m yearning for winter food and feel the need to bake, much to the delight of Rob and anticipation of my colleagues who have been badgering me for afternoon treats ever since they found out about my blog and book.

And so I have baked. And baked. In fact, I have made two strudels since Sunday, having never made one before. Sugar and spice was what I needed and I knew that a strudel, with a sprinkling of festive warmth, would hit all the right spots.

Having chosen my pud and looked up several recipes to get the gist I headed to the kitchen. If there’s one thing I really love in cooking it’s making something that doesn’t need to be bound by an exact recipe and allows me the freedom to play, which this certainly did. I’m never happier than when I’m opening my cupboards and adding a pinch of this, a dash of that, a spoonful of this and, oh, how about a dollop of that? Stirring, tasting, inhaling, like a white witch conjuring up a little magik.

Having pottered and added the ingredients to my filling that I felt would arouse a sense of Christmas – ginger; cinnamon; nutmeg; maple syrup; brown sugar; clementine zest – I went to the fridge for the ready made pastry Rob had picked up for me. And then I discovered that he had accidentally picked up puff instead of filo. Ah. I was momentarily thrown but with nods of agreement from Twitter decided to use the puff pastry anyway. Besides, the filo pastry the majority of recipes call for isn’t traditional anyway – a particularly dough is meant for strudels – so it didn’t seem to matter too much.

I waited with great anticipation as the strudel baked and the smells coming from the oven were certainly promising. I checked it after half an hour and saw that some of the juices were coming out but I wasn’t too concerned by this as in my research I found that this does sometimes happen. I just spooned them over the top, which turned out to give a great result. I was really happy with this strudel; it tasted as good as I’d hoped and was perfect for a winter evening pud. But sadly, the next day the pastry underneath went a little soggy from the juices which didn’t take away from the flavour but wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

I was keen to try the strudel again with filo pastry and to see if I could cut down on the soggy pastry, so this time round I drained most of the juices from the fruit (but reserved them to spoon over the top) and the result was much better. I do think, though, that this is a dessert best served warm.

Here is my finished recipe but please feel free to do as I did and go with your own sense of what will work for you.

Spiced Apple Strudel

120g sultanas
1 tablespoon rum
2 tablespoons Maple syrup
3 eating apples, weighing approximately 570g, peeled, cored and chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
A generous grating of nutmeg
40g dark muscavado sugar
Zest of 1/2 orange
A packet of filo pastry, approximately 8 sheets
60g Nuts, lightly crushed
40g butter, melted
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Start making this the night before you want to cook it. Put the sultanas into a lidded container and pour over the rum and maple syrup. Stir well to coat the sultanas then put on the lid and leave them overnight to soak up the liquid.

The next day, when you’re ready to make and bake the strudel, preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c.

Take the lid off of the container holding the sultanas and give them a good stir. They should have soaked up all of the rum and be coated in the maple syrup. Transfer them with the syrup to a large bowl and add the apples, spices, sugar and orange zest. Give it all a good stir.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper and then lay one of the sheets of pastry over it. Carefully brush the pastry with a little of the melted butter then lay over another sheet of pastry directly on top and brush this sheet with a little more of the butter. Repeat this until half of the pastry has been used and then sprinkle some of the crushed nuts over the pastry, reserving some to sprinkle over the top. Continue laying the sheets of pastry on top, brushing with melted butter, until all of the pastry has been used.

Next drain the fruit mixture of excess juices, reserving them for later, and lay the fruit down the middle of the pastry, lengthways. Tuck the shorter ends of the pastry over the fruit and then wrap the longest pieces over the top of the fruit, completely covering it and making a sausage shape. Carefully turn it over so that the pastry joins are on the bottom.

Brush the top of the pastry with the reserved juices and then sprinkle over the remaining nuts.

Bake the strudel in the oven for 30 minutes and then check it. If any of the juices are leaking out spoon them over the top. Bake for a further 5-10 minutes until golden.

Allow the strudel to cool a little and if you like you can dust it with icing sugar. Slice and serve it warm with a little whipped cream or ice cream, or serve it cold the next day.

Spiced Apple Strudel slice

Happiness Is…Colour Coordinated Cookbook Shelves

November 20th, 2011

Colour Bookshelves

Notes From My Camping Diary (New Forest Part 3) – Photo Diary

November 5th, 2011

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It’s official: I’m converted!

Notes From My Camping Diary (New Forest Part 2)

September 12th, 2011

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Saturday 27th August, 10:03pm
The first two nights on camp it rained and rained. There were breaks but when it came down, boy did it fall hard. From inside the tent it sounded as though it were hailing, and that first night it really unnerved me. As it suddenly thundered down I grabbed Rob’s arm and exclaimed in a small voice ‘I don’t like it!’. And this from someone who loves the rain – really loves it – as anyone who’s read my book will know. I like to sit inside, watching it hit the windows and the world outside, I even like to walk in it as it pelts down around me. But this rain sounded menacing as it hit the tent and the sound of this force intensified ten fold as it hit our polyester shelter. That, along with the pitch blackness outside, our location in the middle of the New Forest, and my first ever night sleeping in a tent, was the perfect mix to create irrational and unsubstantiated – but nevertheless very real – fear in me. But as quickly as it came it went, and I settled as best as I could – feeling a little calmer – under the netting inside our tent, which was actually very cosy and well made. The notion of camping that I had always disregarded had suddenly seemed exciting when Rob and I decided on this trip but now the reality hit me that I was inside a thin polyester pod in the middle of a field, situated in the heart of a forest, in the dead of a cold, wet night. I must have lost my senses.

At some point in the night I drifted into a somewhat restless sleep. The rain started again sometime around 2am, at a guess, and Poppy began moving about the tent, and she didn’t hesitate when we invited her to move from her spot at the end of our blow up, duvet-clad bed to the warmth between us underneath the duvet. There she stayed, snug and contented, all night long.

The second night was better – less of a climate shock – and by the third I was becoming used to temporary new home, and really enjoying it. Last night was the first which was completely dry. The afternoon had been bright, warm and sunny, and so we lit a barbecue in the evening and cooked chicken, sausages and burgers in the open air; now this was great!

P.S Poppy had the time of her life:

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Come back soon for the final part!

Notes from my Camping Diary (New Forest Part 1)

September 1st, 2011

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Friday 26th August
I’m sitting cross legged in the middle of a wet field with nothing but my pyjama bottoms and a sheet of polyester between my bottom and the earth. The early morning dampness hangs in the air and the sun sits low in the sky. Across the field there are others like me; some sitting, some gently stretching their arms to the sky, some slowly walking over to the other side. I haven’t taken up yoga or eloped to join a cult, I’ve joined the millions who holiday under canvas or polyester every year; I’ve gone camping.

We arrived late on Wednesday evening, car packed to the brim – tent; gas lights; kettle; towels; pillows; blow-up bed; dog towels; travel crate; leads; dog bowls; dog food. The addition of Poppy, our 8 month old Springer Spaniel, was a last minute one, and one I still had reservations about as we drove off to the New Forest (Rob, me and a high-energy puppy, wet from running through the forest, all squashed into a tent was not a good thought). In fact, the whole trip was last minute and it showed in our disorganised packing and omission of essentials, forgotten or not thought of in our hurry. We have no sharp knife (cutting an onion with a plastic knife is a painfully slow business), no first aid kit, no compass. But we do have a box of paints, an electric toothbrush with no charger and anyway no means of charging it (let’s hope it lasts), and a corkscrew. Actually, you could argue that the last one is an essential, certainly for a thirty-something first-time camper like me, who’s more used to perfume and heels than insect repellent and wellies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being at one with nature in the great outdoors, sleeping under the stars, cooking on an open flame, hiking through woodland. I just like my creature comforts – and they are very different to the comforts the creatures in this field enjoy. Hence the addition of a fluffy hot water bottle and bed socks in our luggage.

I look up from writing just now and realise I don’t know what the time is. I think it must be around lunchtime but is it before midday or after, and how far before or past? I haven’t a clue. I think to look for my watch to check and then stop myself – why do I need to know? I have no need to do anything, to be anywhere, no appointments to keep, no tasks to check off. I feel a little agitated for a minute; if I were at home right now or at work it would all be there needing to be done, to be worried about. But here, there’s nothing to be concerned with but keeping the tent leak-free and the insects out.

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Saturday 27th August
The early mornings on camp are among the most peaceful I’ve ever known. Just sitting – being – outside in the open air, listening to a chorus of bird song and watching the sun slowly rise higher in the sky, is soul cleansing. Everything is still – most people still sleeping soundly in their tents – aside from the odd person here and there sitting reading in the morning light or lighting a stove for a brew, and the occasional swift flutter of a flock of birds, flying low and carefree in the morning sky. The sun shines on the grass, lighting up the dew, making the grass shimmer and sparkle like a field of diamonds.

This morning I was woken by a cow mooing proudly somewhere close by. Other campers told us on our first day that the herd of deer in the next field wander over to this one in the still of the night and often come so close to the tents that you can hear them graze. I haven’t heard them yet but when we unzipped our tent yesterday morning there they were at the end of the field, standing majestically with their tails swishing and their antlers held high, completely uninterested in the surprised and delighted campers looking on.

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Look out for part two shortly…

Gene Weatherley Photography

August 18th, 2011

Introducing my friend good friend Gene, check out his incredible photographs!

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Steve Vai and Joe Satriani-43

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Take a look at his Flickr stream for more photos. To contact Gene email GeneWeatherleyPhotography@gmail.com