Autumn fruit - Annie Stirk's recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:32 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 February 2013

Annie Stirk

Annie Stirk

Make the most of autumn fruit says Annie Stirk our food and wine consultant PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER

September is the start of autumn. It's a lovely, sultry, mellow month often with a hint of wood smoke in the air. Just perfect for foraging in the hedgerows and there is nothing more likely to bring back childhood memories than a spot of blackberrying.

It is a prickly old job, usually ending with purple stained fingers, but the well earned prize is delicious food for free. Apples are the natural partners of blackberries and who can resist that classic favourite apple and blackberry crumble served with homemade custard.

Apples are incredibly versatile and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. They have a natural affinity with pork and combine magically with other flavours such as cinnamon, ginger and caramel.

Pears are another wonderful autumn treat and this month's recipe for Vanilla Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce, is simple and stunning and is based on the classic French dessert Poires Belle Helene.

Pears are also perfect partners with cheese such as Pecorino or Roquefort, throw in a few walnuts and you have a real treat.

THE BIG APPLE
There are probably about 600 different varieties of home grown apples in the UK but only about 50 of these varieties are actually available to buy at any one time. Look out for some of these delicious and crunchy little numbers appearing over the next couple of months - Cox's Orange Pippin, James Grieve and Egremont Russet. There is nothing quite like the invigorating crunch of that first apple of the season. The fragrance of an apple is a good indicator of freshness and quality. Apples are perfect in all our lovely traditional pies and puddings, tarts and crumbles. They are also a good source of vitamin C as well as fibre in the form of water soluble pectin, which is also really useful as a setting agent in jam and jelly making.

APPLE AND BLACKBERRY CRUNCH

(Serves 6)

Ingredients

900g Bramley/Howgate Wonder cooking apples or use garden windfalls

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

225g blackberries

75g unrefined light Muscovado sugar

175g luxury muesli

50g unsalted butter

2-3 tbs runny honey

To serve

150 mls Greek yoghurt or crme fraiche

Sprigs of mint

Few reserved blackberries

Method

Peel, core and slice the apples.

Place in a pan, sprinkle with plenty of lemon juice, add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons of water and cook until soft and pulpy.

Fold in the blackberries but reserve a few for decoration and cool the mixture.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan, add the butter and honey, fold in the muesli and cook for a few minutes until glossy and crunchy.

Cool. Layer the apple and blackberry mix with the honey muesli mix, in a pretty glass.

Top with a good spoonful of crme fraiche or Greek yoghurt and a sprig or two of mint. Finish with a couple of blackberries.


VANILLA POACHED PEARS WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE

(Serves 4)

An understated sweet, fragrant and delicate dessert. Try the pears poached in red wine too and for a dramatic colour contrast, serve both together.

Ingredients

4 pears - Conference, Comice or William - peeled but leave the stalks on

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbs runny honey

75g granulated sugar

1 cinnamon stick- broken

1 vanilla pod

2 star anise - optional

300 mls of wine or just enough to cover the pear. Use red or white wine, a sweet dessert wine or apple juice

Method

Peel the pears and sprinkle with the lemon juice to prevent browning.

Place the sugar, honey, wine and spices in a medium sized, deep saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and add the peeled pears.

Cover and simmer until the pears are soft and translucent about 40 minutes, but this will depend on the pear size and variety.

Remove pears from the pan and boil the juice for a few minutes until it becomes syrupy. Cool.

Once cooled, pour the syrup back over the pears. Refrigerate.


FOR THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE:

This goes especially well with the pears poached in the white wine.

Ingredients

300g good quality plain chocolate

300mls double cream or whipping cream at room temperature

Method

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.

Melt the chocolate either over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave.

Heat the cream in a saucepan.

Gradually add the melted chocolate to the cream and beat well until glossy and thick.

Cool slightly and the pour over the poached pears.



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