apple butter

It’s time to talk about apples.

It’s already spring here in Australia but there are still some lovely apples to be had and I urge you, before it’s too late, to make this delectable condiment before it’s too hot to have the stove on for five hours.

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raspberry muffins, a basketful

There’s something about autumn that just makes me happy. In Melbourne, you get all the cold wet miserableness of winter, plus the pretty colours and occasional sunlight of autumn. It’s May, so that means we’re definitely in the swing of cold, blustery autumn. I love it.

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apple pie

Writer’s block is not fun.

I have plenty of other ways to procrastinate, I don’t have to blog.

Some options include:

Sow seeds (in life and in the ground).

Organise possibility of being a lead tenant for Youth For Christ next year.

Organise possibly extending my trip to Perth so I can hang out with Peace Tree. (and visit Georgia and Dave?)

Study for my quiz tomorrow.

Make more chocolate muffins for September Camp.

Upload my study questions for Sep Camp.

Go for a walk. Or a run. Or do some yoga. Or some other kind of physical exercise to not. stress. out. Because I have this essay I keep procrastinating from doing.

So yeah, I wrote up a complete running sheet for the last few days before camp. I have an illness. I have lists upon lists and I HAVEN’T STARTED MY ESSAY YET (Mum and Dad, just forget you read that, yeah?)

It’s ok, I planned time to write the essay. It’s gonna happen. I haven’t got a back up plan so it HAS to happen (hopefully with little to no effort on my part.)

Besides, I have apple pie to calm my nerves.

Technically, it’s apple and pear pie. I got fruit from the farmer’s market on the weekend because it’s almost not apple and pear season anymore and I wanted pie. I love pie.

And thanks to Pam’s Pie Tutorial courtesy of The Pioneer Woman (thank you, Ree!) I made a perfect pie. I’m not kidding. It tastes amazing, it was perfectly cooked, it looks incredible and it’s just as good cold as hot.

I know. I’ve already had more than I need.

Apple and Pear Pie (two crust)

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Pam says that pie making is not a recipe, it’s an approach. It’s about the technique. So while this is a recipe, it’s a very loose one. Play around. Enjoy. Make pie.

2 1/2 cups flour (plain or pastry)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

250g butter, cold, cut into chunks

1/4 cup ice water

about 6 cups (8 pieces of fruit) fruit, peeled and chopped (if needed)

1/2 cup (more if needed) sugar

2 tbsp cornflour or other thickener

juice of one lemon

2 tsp cinnamon

pinch ground cloves

pinch nutmeg (more than cloves)

Pulse 2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs (alternatively, whisk together dry ingredients and use fingertips to rub in butter.) Pulse in 1/2 cup flour (just) and place in a bowl or on your counter. Sprinkle water over, knead in and form into two discs.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius.

Stir together fruit, lemon juice, thickener and spices. Make sure all the fruit pieces are even and that the mixture coats each piece.

Now, to roll out the dough, take two pieces of parchment paper (or baking paper) and place a dough disk in between them. Roll out to fit your pie pan (this recipe makes enough for one two crust nine inch pie). Place one rolled out disc into the bottom of your pie dish and prick all over with a fork.

Place the fruit in the dish and dot with butter (about four or five tablespoons). Cover with the other half of the dough, rolled out. Crimp the edges however you like and slit the top a few times. (You may choose, as I did, to decorate the top with the scraps of dough left over.) Brush with a beaten egg or some heavy cream.

Bake at 250º for about half an hour, until nicely browned on top. Cover with foil to stop browning and lower heat to 200 degrees for anywhere from 1/2 hour to 40 minutes – apples will need longer, berries will need less.

Let rest for about ten to twenty minutes on the counter before you eat with heavy cream or ice cream.

white bean tomato stew

It’s funny how cooking can cheer me up. I was not in a good mood when I got home today. I got super stressed out about the essays I’ve got due next week (I’m not procrastinating – I’m cooking dinner. HUGE difference) and I didn’t have a good train trip and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball with a large block of chocolate. Thankfully, I had chores to get me out of this funk.

I took in my washing, cleaned up the kitchen and started up on dinner, then my housemate made me coffee – so good! The little upticks of life just make the day that much better. It’s not about grand sweeping gestures but more about the small pieces of happy sprinkled around.

By the way:

So, about that stew. It’s tomatoey, beany, and all around delicious; this stew ticks all the boxes. Sometimes I’m jealous of all you meat-eaters out there. It’s true, sometimes I just crave the warmth that a big pot of beef bourginon emulates but seriously, try this and you won’t go back. Served with that bread I told you about yesterday, some shaved parmesan and a beautifully poached egg, I could not have asked for more tonight.

It’s almost spring but those August winds are picking up, so make this stew and share it with your friends and family. I promise you, they will be begging for more. I’m lucky to have leftovers. Hello, lunch tomorrow!

White Bean and Tomato Stew

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I made quite a few adaptations to this recipe. I was cooking for seven so I upped some of the ingredients. I don’t like celery so I left that out, I accidentally used diced “Italian” (read: with extra herbs and capsicum, not a bad idea but not one I particularly wanted to invest in this time) instead of pureed tomatoes, I used silverbeet and spinach instead of kale, although I would have liked more greens and less tomato. I will most likely be making this again. I feel it will become a staple.

Serves 8

About 400g (or more) spinach (can swap out for silverbeet or kale or any other greens) stems removed, washed thoroughly (especially if you picked them from your own garden like I did!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

approx 1 cup chopped carrots

2 medium-large onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

350ml dry white wine

3x400g cans white beans, drained and rinsed (I used cannelini beans)

2 cans pureed tomatoes

1 litre (more or less depending on desired consistency) vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

three or four thyme sprigs

bay leaf

fresh crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan to serve (optional)

Half fill a medium pot with water, well salted. Bring to the boil and cook the greens 1 minute (no need to cook anything like baby spinach, but silverbeet or anything heavier) drain and squeeze excess water. Chop roughly and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic and carrot and simmer for about15 minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce by about half.

Add the beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Take out the thyme and bay leaf, add the spinach and cook a further five minutes. (This is the point you would poach your eggs and toast your bread, if you wanted to serve it that way). Serve with crusty bread, poached eggs and parmesan, to friends and family.