Apples to Apples

November 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

The autumn took me by surprise. I had packed for Spain, from a balmy San Francisco, and suddenly there I was crunching through leaves, craving a steaming glass of mulled wine, and in need of a sweater coat. It was the best kind of surprise.

Broadway market bustled despite the drizzle. Small queues of hungry shoppers circled the bewildering array of choices before settling on their prey. I am a bad decision maker at the best of times so this cornucopia of colours and smells was like a personal hell. In the end the steaming daddy-bear sized pots of vibrant Ghanaian stews seduced me with their promise of heat. The signature spinach and agushi dish, made with crushed melon seeds (that’s the agushi), served with paprika studded rice and topped with pickles and some seriously mean hot sauce did not leave me cold on the roadside.

We took home slithers of salmon that were so delicately smoked you could practically still taste the crystal clear Scottish waters in the buttery soft flesh. Defeated by the stew, and by the temptation of the teensiest little salted caramel buttercream topped buns from Violet, we had to save for another time the sublime custard tarts whose flaky pastry and spotted yellow hearts recalled my treat of choice on walks home from playschool when I was small enough for the bakery display to be at eye height. But our resolve was strong, for dessert that night was to be one of the finest there is when apples are abundant and a chill is in the air: apple betty. Not just any old betty but Nigel’s: with chunks of chocolate laced through the buttery bread topping, melting through and mingling with the pillowy apples and just-sweet-enough traces of golden syrup. I’ve made it myself in many different places and at different times of year, but let me tell you that it’s hard to beat when someone else makes it for you on a truly autumnal day.

Chocolate Apple Betty
Adapted from Real Food by Nigel Slater

Serves 4-6, with cream or ice-cream

1kg/a little over 2lb apples, peeled and cored. Bramleys are ideal; in the US you will probably have to use Granny Smiths unless you have a good heirloom variety.
30g/2 tbsp butter

For the crumb layer:

125g/4oz soft white breadcrumbs
100g/3.5oz light soft brown sugar
100g/3.5oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
75g/1/2 stick butter, melted
3 heaped tablespoons golden syrup

Cut the apples into large chunks, put them in a pan and toss with the butter and a couple of tablespoons of water over a moderate heat. When the apples start to soften but are still keeping their shape, tip them into a 1.5 litre baking dish.

Mix the crumbs, sugar and chocolate and cover the apples loosely with the mixture. Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a small saucepan, then pour it over the crumbs, making certain to soak them all. Bake in an oven preheated to 375F/190°C for thirty-five minutes, till the apple is soft and the crumbs are golden and crisp.

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