So what is the question?
When I was growing up ‘fruit’ meant apples, oranges and the occasional banana. Grapes were for the sick. Once a pineapple arrived in blue tissue paper from an uncle in South Africa but this was an exotic and unique encounter and I’m not even sure we knew what to do with it. It was bigger than the fridge. I avoided fruit as far as possible unless it was tinned fruit salad for Sunday tea at Grandma’s with thick cream unaccountably also from a tin. (This was the sixties but I guess Grandma was stuck on tins with all that rationing.)
Those of you too young or too posh to have encountered fruit salad in a tin, gather round. It is a fruit lite version of the fruit salad you might make. Indeed it has only a nodding acquaintance with real unadulterated fruit. For a start it comes in tiny, appealing (to a child) pieces and the stuff I ate was certainly in an unapologetic sugar syrup. It contained pieces of cherry (cochineal pink) and pear with its delicious grainy texture. The wee peach slices were like tiny dolphins swimming in my mouth. The little oranges had no pith to speak of and the grapes, no pips. Real fruit, I have to tell you, was a size 18 disappointment in comparison. My tastes moved on (eventually!) from tinned fruit salad to plum tarts and apple pies. Fruit as a vehicle for pastry and cream was close to the meaning of life in my book. Then I learned to make jam – now that’s a way to tame fruit!
Apples and Eating Less
So it wasn’t until I had to lose some weight later on in life (to improve my blood pressure and enable me to avoid specialist (euphemism) clothing shops) that I got to understand just how important it is to befriend the naked apple. What follows is about introducing more apples into your day to help lose weight but if you don’t need to do that, bear with me. Today’s final recipe is a nursery pudding involving apples and Calvados and you won’t want to miss that.
First the apple as the dieter’s friend. Faced with a big incentive (fear) I got creative and decided to test the oft repeated claim that apples are versatile and delicious, the original convenience food. I did not listen to the punishing part of me that said all I should eat was apples because I was fat. I knew that way led to misery and failure. Been there. Done that. But nor did I retaliate against that critical part by adding extra mayonnaise and croutons to my salad. I knew that eating like that was unkind to someone like me carrying extra weight and higher than desirable blood pressure. This is key. You may take notes. It had dawned on me that eating only apples was the same as over-eating the unhealthy stuff. It was abusing my body and being unkind to myself. Somehow I knew that there was a kinder, middle way and eventually I found it. Rather than cutting everything I liked out, I added apples in. This refusal to deprive myself really undermined the critical voices within.
And this is what I found about apples. You can eat as many as you like! They are extremely good at making a salad more filling and are happy bedfellows with chicken, ham, cheese , prawns and all sorts of other things you might put in a salad. I never learned to love an apple enough to just bite straight in (though this may come). They still have to be cored and sliced and made to look tempting – but why not? There are no prizes for eating stuff you don’t fancy. I will not palter with the truth, there was more to my losing a couple of stones than just adding in apples but they really did help and today when my weight goes up a few pounds I up the apple intake and reduce the bread.
Simple Apple and Roquefort Salad
Deconstruct a little gem lettuce onto your plate leaf by leaf and add a beautiful apple sliced elegantly. Add as many other vegetables as you can lay your hands on also lovingly prepared. (If you have cooked broccoli or sugar snap peas or French beans in the fridge left overs you can add them too). Radishes look pretty sliced. Baby tomatoes halves for sweetness. Black olives add mystery. Cornichons whisk you to Paris. Fresh herbs if you have them. Now make a dressing by mixing two teaspoons of low fat yoghurt or fromage frais with a teaspoon of good mayonnaise or your favourite Caesar salad dressing. Add some water to thin it down; taste it for seasoning and spoon over the leaves etc. Be sparing. Add a few very thin slices of Roquefort and finally sprinkle some toasted nuts (crushed hazelnuts, flaked almonds) over the oeuvre. (Unless they are replacing the cheese you don’t want more than a very few). Welcome to your lunch.
Stew as many apples as you can at the beginning of the week and you can dip in whenever you need to. Cooked on high power in the microwave for ten minutes they need neither butter nor water. The important thing is to cook them until they are blitzed. They make brilliant puddings with or without ice cream, custard, cinnamon, yoghurt. But for times of special need try the next recipe.
Apples with Calvados
Spoon your stewed apple (as near puree as possible) into a nice Champagne glass (the fancier the better) and add a tablespoonful of Calvados if you have it, or cooking brandy. Now a dribble of Elmlea or cream. You’ll find the alcohol and cream float on top rather divinely. For the non dieters push the boat out and add sponge fingers on the side. Nursery food with alcohol and no cooking to speak of. Whenever I make this, I notice sheepishly that the effort is in inverse proportion to the chorus of praise and appreciation with which it is greeted. (If you’re channelling Nadiya you can always make the sponge fingers. LOL.)