I think it has hit me tonight.
The exhaustion that all our teachers and lecturers were banging on about last week.
On Monday it was… “You will be very tired for the first week or so”
Then by Wednesday we were told… “Don’t worry if you’re knackered, everyone will be for about the first three weeks”
And when Friday came around… “You’ll definitely be exhausted for the first month or six weeks, and you’ll question why you’re here”
You could say, that escalated pretty quickly!
Regardless, when I sauntered out of our bright, airy school in a nice residential area of West London last Friday, clutching the treacle tart I was so proud of, and chattering with new friends about what a fantastic week it had been; I didn’t really believe that I would find this all that hard.
But today, I had to haul myself out of bed and get ready in record time to make it for my morning demo, skipping breakfast and instead thanking my lucky stars that I had sat at the end of the row in class, meaning I could wolf down whatever was left on the numerous tasting plates brimming with delicious vegetables that were passed my way. Still not satisfied, my heart sank when I realised the demo had run into lunchtime and I wouldn’t have time to pick up something from the high street for lunch. In the remaining 20 minutes before our afternoon session in the kitchen, I managed to jam the printer, lose my hard drive with my time plan on, eat a bite or two of lemon pie and rush to get changed into my chef whites in order to get to the kitchen on time. I was convinced with all my flapping about it was going to be a disaster and I was going to curdle my egg custard, burn my onions and make scrambled rubber instead of the lovely buttery flakes we tasted last week. (Forever a pessimist!)
Amazingly it actually went okay! My egg custard had a ‘uniform wobble’, my eggs were buttery and soft and my soup was perfectly seasoned. I am wondering how long its going to be before it all goes wrong!
Despite this, we were the last table to be finished and washed up, my head was beginning to pound from dehydration and tension and as I walked home in the rain I had a sudden urge to curl up in my own bed with a hot chocolate and go to sleep.
I think it’s because I spent all weekend at home in my own bed, and I realised tonight wasn’t going to be quite so restful.
Being home for the weekend was great – I made my favourite Mac’n’Cheese for me and Pops (my dad!) on Friday night- we only get to have it when mum is out! And as I expected, upon trying my Treacle Tart, the family were impressed and agreed to wash up for me! I have to say, it was pretty delicious. My pastry came out almost perfect. Short and crisp, with a neat finish, and a sweet, gooey treacle filling.
I practised my shortcrust pastry again on Saturday, making a Pear and Almond Frangipane tart which I got to share with more of my lovely family, and on Sunday I decided to give wholemeal pastry a go. It was delicious.
I just have to share this Plum and Apple Pie recipe with you. Its full of autumnal, seasonal flavours, and the apples I used were from our garden! One of the joys of coming home is buying gorgeous seasonal produce from our local greengrocer with my mum. We both love picking out delicious looking fruit and veg and it’s just that little bit more special when it come wrapped in a paper bag!
Plum and Apple Pie
- 250g good quality wholemeal plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 140g cold butter into small cubes
- 4 tbsp cold water
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
Plum and Apple Filling
- 3 or 4 juicy, ripe Plums
- 2 cooking apples, such as Bramley
- 2 or 3 smaller, sweeter apples, such as Pink Lady
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tbsp apricot brandy, or another sweet liqueur
- A handful or two of seasonal berries such as Blackberries (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (fan), or 200 degrees without fan.
- Firstly make the pastry. Rub the butter into the wholemeal flour and salt gently, being careful not to warm the butter up too much
- Once you have fine, even breadcrumbs, and no lumps of butter, stir in the sugar.
- Begin to bring the mixture together by adding water a tbsp at a time, mixing swiftly to incorporate the liquid, but not overstirring as this will make the pastry tough.
- When the mixture looks like it will come together, put your hands into the bowl and shape it into a dough.
- Shape the dough into a disc, wrap with clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill. I chilled mine overnight, but just 15 minutes is okay.
- Next, peel and chop the apples into 2cm cubes, and de-stone and slice the plums into 2cm thick wedges.
- Put the fruit into a large tupperware dish, or mixing bowl, stir in the sugar, cinnamon, brandy, and vanilla and leave in the fridge overnight to create juice and soften the fruit.
- The next day, drain the fruit mixture and reduce the liquid in a pan until it creates a thin syrup.
- If you want to have your pie now (who wouldn’t want to?!) – gently simmer all the ingredients in a pan for 10 minutes until the fruit has released some juice. Allow the juice to reduce a little to form a syrup. You must make sure that the mixture has cooled before you construct the pie though, so bear this in mind.
- Place the fruit mixture into a pie dish, so that it fills up the dish and forms a small mound on the top.
- Roll out your pastry to 3mm thickness, then take a strip of pastry and press it around the lip of the pie dish. Brush this with water and drape your remaining pastry over the dish, trimming off any excess.
- Pinch the pastry together at the edges, or create indents with a fork, then you can decorate however you wish with any leftover pastry. Make a small hole in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape.
- Finally, brush the pastry with some milk, scatter the top with sugar, and bake in the oven at 180 degrees (fan) for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry has cooked.
- Serve with cream, if you like things simple, or to take it to the next level, a dollop of clotted cream would do the job nicely! With hot fruit, a cold ice cream is always delicious, and to pick up the autumnal notes, a toffee ice cream would be scrummy!
Unfortunately, I made this on Sunday, and had to leave it all at home for my parents and boyfriend to polish off! (Lucky so-and-so’s!)
They will probably need the extra fuel though, as this week is a busy week back in Bucks. Today the builders moved into our new house to start the work, and I got to have a little more input over the weekend; brainstorming over the design of the new kitchen, and picking out new ovens and hobs. Most girls my age probably wouldn’t get quite so excited over the thought of a steam oven or full height fridge with vegetable drawers!
A little trip back to the countryside has reminded me how much I love the outdoors, especially in Autumn. All around us there are rich, sweet, earthy flavours, and stunning shades of purple and orange- everywhere from the window in Topshop, to the amazing root vegetables and fruits we indulge in, and the leaves falling from the trees…
I blame mum for making me into such a romantic!
One of the fantastic things about this time of year is the fact you can collect so much from nature. Whether its prime potato harvest, or a time to make the most of the delicious and sweet winter squashes that are beginning to appear in the supermarkets. (Have you tried those pumpkin pancakes yet…?) We should also make the most of free, wild produce such as the juicy blackberries found on proper english hedgerows. We had a demo today involving a number of beautiful, woody, wild mushrooms and that has inspired me to have a look at going on a foraging course to seek out these little fungi jewels. Be careful, as some can be fatally poisonous, so go with a professionally guided group if you fancy the idea of using some of natures best free ingredients!
Right now, I need to finish some work for tomorrow, but I will be settling down with a new (healthy) sweet treat I have created (recipe to follow in my next post) to catch up on Downton Abbey! (Just don’t tell me what happens!)
Enjoy the flavours of Autumn foodies!
Love and Plums