This is a very simple dessert. But then cooking supper for three hadn’t been in the day’s timetable but came about when Jonathan said on the phone some time during the day that he and Lyndsey were driving back from Wales and there wasn’t much food in their fridge at home … Would you like to come to supper? I asked, like every good mother should. Yes please, he said. Well, it will be Bolognese, I told him. Because that’s shorthand in this house for, I’m quite busy so I’ll just grab some ragu out of the freezer rather than make anything special. As it happened, and slightly unusually, there wasn’t any Bolognese ragu in my freezer but a packet of raw mince, so the ragu was begun from scratch once the meat thawed. And then I decided that a lasagne would be nice, rather than just spag bol. A dessert wasn’t really necessary: it was midweek and an impromptu meal, but I thought a little something at the end of the meal would be nice. So baked apples served with some of my Christmas brandy ice cream was decided upon. It was our first meal together of 2014 so I made an attempt to ‘do it properly’. Thus a little fizz started us off with some olives and other nibbles as we drank to the new year, then the lasagne was eaten with a nice big green salad and we drank some splendid Gran Vendema rioja that Jonathan had brought. Finally, there was the pudding; baked apples can’t really be called ‘dessert’, they are really a very traditional English pudding – the word denoting something homely and simple rather than a particular kind of pudding.
My mother used to bake apples for pudding a lot when I was a child, stuffing them with raisins or sultanas and topping them with butter, sugar and a little water that all melted down and came together into a glorious caramel along with the apple juices. We used to eat them with custard – very English! I can remember as a child carefully stuffing the holes in the centre of the apples, pushing in as many as I could. I made them sometimes when my own children were small but I certainly haven’t baked an apple for quite some time. But it was simple – apples were on hand – and an excellent way of using up some of the Christmas mincemeat and there was still some Christmas ice cream to go with them. The mincemeat is now over a year old, made for Christmas 2012 by Jonathan and his friend Emma. Nicely matured this year, it made an excellent filling for our mince pies but there’s still quite a bit left. Apples and mincemeat go so well together that I knew the mincemeat stuffing would work well.
I picked out 3 nice Cox’s apples. I then used a corer to cut out the core right through the middle.
I’ve had that corer for so many years it must almost be vintage! Next, with a sharp knife, I ran a slit round the middle, just breaking through the skin. This stops the apple bursting.
Put the apples in an ovenproof dish and stuff the holes with mincemeat. It was once I’d stuffed all three apples that I remembered Lyndsey doesn’t like raisins and thus mincemeat. I removed the mincemeat from one and chopped some walnuts and stuffed those inside instead! Talk about spur of the moment. I spied a pack of walnuts while thinking what to put in and thought, That will do nicely. Now put a nice bit chunk of butter on each apple. Sprinkle 1 dessertspoon brown sugar over the top. Then a couple of dessertspoons of water.
Put the apples into a preheated 200C/180 Fan oven and cook for about 40 minutes. When they’re ready you’ll see the apples have puffed up a bit and the split round the middle will be come apart. The butter, sugar and water will have melted down into a nice gooey caramel and the apples will be nicely browned.
Really, there’s nothing to making them but they are so delicious. Baking the apples in their skin intensifies the flavour and the cold ice cream melted a little and very deliciously into the hot caramel. Nursery pleasure! It’s hardly a grown-up dessert but it’s still a very nice one! And perfect for a winter’s evening.