I know, I’ve been decidedly absent from my blog for a while. Things got busy, and messy, and real, and I felt that I didn’t have things to say, or perhaps it’s just that I wasn’t sure I would ever find the right words to say the things I most needed to say.
Anyway, at some point during that time I visited my parents. My father lives in a nursing home on the Gold Coast, and when I do get down to visit him and my mother, our visits often take place in the dining room of the nursing home. A large room filled with plastic chairs and plastic flowers in small plastic vases. Something between a school dining hall and a hospital.
Anyway, while we were there my mother gave me a large bag filled with apples. The apples grow in the grounds of the nursing home, and fall from the trees onto the lawn and lie there until they rot, mostly. The residents don’t eat them, because many of them can’t eat anything much crisper than a piece of lettuce.
So Boo and I returned home with a large bucket of small, crisp, sweet apples. It’s also the time of year for rhubarb, and we happened to have a bunch of it on hand, so … of course … we made rhubarb and apple pie. The perfect food for a cold winter’s night, or a cool winter afternoon. Warm from the oven, the smell and the taste are so perfect it’s hard to imagine that anything could be more warming, more evocative of safety and love and home.
This week, we revisited the recipe, replacing the rhubarb with strawberries, because there were the wildest, reddest, most perfect strawberries I’ve ever seen everywhere at the Sunday markets on the weekend.
Anyway, if you want to show someone you love them with a wholesome, domestic, warm hug of a dessert, here’s the recipe …
- 300 grams plain flour
- 150 grams unsalted butter
- Half a vanilla bean
- 1 tablespoon of icing sugar
- A couple of tablespoons of cold water
- 1 Tablespoon of milk (for glazing the pastry)
- 30 grams unsalted butter
- a dozen small sweet apples (if you’re using large apples instead, say Granny Smiths, you’ll only need 6)
- 1 bunch of rhubarb
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 150 grams caster sugar
Preheat the oven: to 180C.
Make the pastry: Place the flour, the icing sugar, the scraped inside of the vanilla bean, and the butter in a bowl and rub between your fingers until you’ve created a soft, crumbly mixture. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until your pastry comes together in a lovely smooth lump. Wrap in cling-wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling (or about 20-30 minutes).
Make the filling: Peel, core and chop the apples, and chop the rhubarb into smallish pieces. Add the butter to a pot and melt till frothy, then add the apples, cinnamon and sugar and cook for two or three minutes. Add the rhubarb and cook for another two minutes, or until the fruit is just softening and releasing its colour. Tip the whole lovely mix into a lovely big pie dish.
Cover the pie: Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of baking paper, which makes for an easy transfer from bench to dish).
Cut a long, narrow strip as wide as the lip of your pastry dish, and as long as it is around, and press it all around the rim of the dish, then brush it with a little water. This rim will help to keep your pastry cap on the dish/stop it from shrinking away from the edge of the dish, and provide a lovely thick rim of buttery pastry. It’s fine if you join together a series of strips!
Cover the whole pie with your remaining circle of pastry and pinch the two layers of pastry together. Add a decorative flourish for the top if you have a little leftover pastry and are feeling creative. Brush the pastry with the milk, and then scatter a little caster sugar over the top to create a sweet, crisp cap.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, then serve with a generous dollop of thick cream, and a big kiss. None of that wishy washy stuff out of a can, please.