At our two London shops, we’re big fans of eating seasonally, so autumn’s incredible bounty of fruits from the orchard, such as pears, apples and quinces, are perfect for creating treats to fill the larder and freezer for the months ahead. From preserves, which are traditionally made this time of year for storing, and which we use for breakfast porridge, salads and roasts, to warming pies and punchy chutneys.
It’s been said that a pear should have a texture that "leads to silent consumption". True enough. Pears should be soft and yielding but, because they bruise easily, they’re often picked from the tree early, delivered to supermarkets still crunchy so that they can ripen in the bowl at home.
It’s worth knowing the varieties. Our favourites include the Doyenne du Comice – the softest and juiciest, which we feature heavily in our autumn salads with complementary flavours, such as bitter chicory, blue cheese, oatcakes and walnuts. The William, which is delicious uncooked and sliced, is also perfect for desserts, as they’re amazingly sweet and will hold their texture and not turn to mush. We love poached pairs with a chocolate sauce made from good quality 70 per cent cocoa and melted with equal quantities of double cream.
The Conference, which you’ll find everywhere this time of year, is the classic long, thin-skinned pear with a slightly firmer touch than the others, and is good to use in a pickle or chutney, as they hold their shape and texture best.
For those who aren’t sure what it is, quince is knobbly, yellow and hard and a curiously stubborn fruit with an alluring fragrance. A raw quince is full of dry, inedible tannins, but treat your quince to some gentle cooking and its extraordinary perfume can be coaxed out to make something really special.
Famously used to make the Spanish membrillo, an amazing quince jelly served with Manchego, quince is ideal for preserving, where sugar captures its fruity fragrance. Try poaching quince, pealed, cored and sliced into wedges with sugar and a bay leaf. The poached fruit in its syrup will keep for a week in the fridge and can be added to breakfast porridge, spooned over yoghurt or to fill a crumble with other autumn fruits and berries.
We also love to capture its perfume by using it for a stuffing. Simply wash and chop a quince, skin and core in, and stuff it into the cavity of a well-seasoned chicken. Push thyme butter (made by simply combining thyme leaves with softened butter and a little seasoning) under the breast skin and roast in your usual way. It’s super succulent.
British apples are arguably the most accessible and rewarding of the autumn fruits. Varieties are endless and brilliantly named: Peasgood’s Nonsuch, Keswick Codlin and D’Arcy Spice as well as Cox’s Orange Pippin. For us, the Bramley is the undisputed king of the cooking apples.
The pectin in apples makes them a real preserver's friend – adding a few to a jelly or chutney will give you a much better chance of a good set. Grating a Russet or Spartan apple into muesli and leaving it to soak overnight in apple juice, nut milk or dairy milk, makes breakfast both quick and healthy.
As the weather draws in and we’re in the mood for hunkering down, there’s nothing more satisfying than making a classic pie. Our new recipe for apple and salted caramel pie (which is also available to buy in our shops in a reusable enamel Falconware dish for £15) is a delicious seasonal treat.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- 600g cooking apple peeled and thinly sliced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 150g Salted Caramel Sauce (see below)
- 10g polenta
- 1 batch of chilled sweet pastry (see below)
- 1 egg beaten with a splash of water and pinch of salt
- 1 x 20cm pie tin
- Roll pastry thinly to 2mm thick and line the tin, then place in the fridge and rest for 30 minutes. While the pastry is resting, peel and slice the apple as thinly as you can, preferably on a mandoline if you have one then dress in the lemon juice to avoid discoloration. Cover the bottom of the pie dish with polenta to help absorb juices.
- Pile the sliced apples into the shell base and pour over the caramel sauce.
- Roll out the remainder of the pastry on a floured surface.
- Brush the lip of the pie with egg wash and lay over the pasty to cover.
- Trim off excess and crimp the edges with your fingers or use the handle of a spoon.
- Pierce a hole in the top of the pie to allow the steam out, then brush with egg wash and dust with a little caster sugar.
- Return to the fridge for 30 minutes for a final rest (or freeze at this point), then bake for 30 minutes at 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas mark 4. Rest for 30 minutes before serving, or served chilled with cream and extra caramel sauce.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 75g butter
- 75g light muscovado sugar
- 25g unrefined granulated sugar
- 50g honey
- 120g double cream
- 1 tsp of salt
Heat the butter, sugars and honey until sugar has dissolved. Add the cream and cook gently, reducing by a third until it thickens. Add the salt and remove from heat.
- 350g plain flour
- 150g chilled unsalted butter finely diced
- 110g icing sugar
- 1 large egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp iced cold water
Food processor method: Place flour, butter and sugar in the food processor. Pulse until butter has blended to a fine crumb. Add egg mixture and pulse again until dough is formed. Remove, cover and chill.
Hand method: Sift the flour and sugar and quickly rub in the butter using cool hands to form a sandy crumb. Make a well add the egg mixture and quickly bring together to form a dough. Knead very tenderly to bring it together – but only a few turns – then cover and chill in the fridge for two hours before use.