(Guest Blog!) Merryhill Mushrooms introduces us to their wonderful world of mushrooms.

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Nestled at the foot of the South Downs, just outside the village of Storrington West Sussex, lies Merryhill Mushrooms. Supplying local pubs, restaurants, farm shops and wholesale with the finest organically grown chestnut and exotic mushrooms, Merryhill Mushrooms have carved their niche for mushroom expertise and excellence in the Sussex area. 

Who are Merryhill Mushrooms?

With expertise built over six generations, Merryhill Mushrooms started in 1914 with Sir Arthur Linfield, horticulturalist and founder of Chesswood Mushrooms. His grandson Dick Rucklidge is now chief grower – after an interesting career in growing and consultancy for advising companies across the world. Today, Dick’s wife Miriam runs the office, daughter Tracey takes mushrooms to local markets and food fairs and grandson Kieran is in charge of the web sales, the wholesale business and manages new products. If there’s one quote that sums it all up: “Mushrooms are definitely part of the family!”

With new product launches, more varieties of both mushrooms produced and mushroom kits on offer, the mushrooms business is growing in both size and popularity!

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What type of mushrooms do Merryhill Mushrooms grow?

Everything! We have some weird and wonderful varieties now which you’d be hard pushed to find in the supermarkets such as our Nameko Mushrooms. But our main speciality is chestnut and portabello mushrooms. These are actually the same variety of mushroom just picked at different sizes: the chestnut “closed cup” mushrooms are picked off the block earlier, while 10-12 are left to grow into big mature portabello mushrooms perfectly for stuffing!

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We started with the chestnuts and portabelllos, later branching out into more exotic mushrooms while also increasing our production of the chestnuts. Starting with one growing shed, we now have four spaces all tailored to suit each mushroom variety, as the conditions to grow each type varies hugely and not all of them get on together! There’s definitely an art to growing different varieties.

The oysters and shiitakes are grown in slightly different conditions and are popular with adventurous foodies and restaurants. The vibrant yellows and pinks are used in our mixed Restaurant trays

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How do Merryhill Mushrooms grow their crops?

The mushrooms are produced in specially built mushroom ‘sheds’, with each shed equipped with systems to regulate temperatures, humidity and air exchange. Each crop of mushroom are looked after carefully throughout the growing cycle – you can really tell the difference with the taste of lovingly grown, fresh local produce! We believe in reducing the time from pick to plate. The benefits of this are easily observed when comparing both the look and taste of fresh mushrooms compared to imported mushrooms. (You’ll just have to try them to taste taste the difference!)

To start the growing process we have to combine the mushroom compost with a top layer of casing peat. This is a non-nutritious layer which the mushroom mycelium colonizes, then forming its fruit body “pins” whilst drawing nutrition from the compost below. Around 20 days later, with careful looking-after, the first crop of mushrooms is ready to pick!

Got a taste for mushrooms after reading this? We supply both loose mushrooms and pre-packed punnets for residential use which are perfect for mushroom recipes!

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You can order Merryhill Mushrooms from the Fin and Farm website hereHave you tried their incredible mushroom jerky? This veggie/vegan snack packs a flavour punch, and just has to be tried to be believed! 


Interested in writing a guest blog? Contact us and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

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(Guest Blog!) Merryhill Mushrooms introduces us to their wonderful world of mushrooms.

Perfectly Seasonal – Sussex Grown Peppers

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Picture from Real Food Runner – Bell Pepper Salad

A freshly grown, naturally matured pepper is a joy to eat with a sweet richness that time and forced growing hasn’t completely been bred out to leave just a crisp watery shell.

Tangmere Airfield Nurseries are sited on the historical ‘Battle of Britain’ airfield near Chichester just ahead of the Sussex South Downs.  Following the airfield closure in 1970, the land fell into decline until it was regenerated as farmland.  Tangmere have been growing peppers there since 1988.

In 2001 they bought a farm in Spain so they could supply peppers all year round – which for us as consumers is great as we have complete traceability from responsible growers; Tangmere are a LEAF demonstration farm (Linking Environment and Farming) which aims to combine traditional farming with environmental awareness.

We buy their peppers because they are hands down, the sweetest most delicious and fresh peppers we’ve tasted.  Even green peppers, which are usually mildly bitter, have a softer sweeter flavour as they’ve had time to develop their flavour naturally.

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Ways to use Bell Peppers

The edible capsicum family are all rich in nutrients, particularly Vitamin C and has fantastic antioxidant properties when eaten raw or lightly cooked.

Cooking can really highlight the sweet, almost fruity flavour and peppers can as easily stand up for themselves with strong meaty textures as well as light, fragrant salads.

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You could add spicy chorizo for a stew just made to be eaten with bread to mop up those juicy sauces.

A red pepper and walnut dip is perfect for parties and barbecues.

Baked eggs in peppers is low in carbs and deliciously healthy for a quick supper.

A perfectly topped pizza with peppers and an olive stuffed crust has a beautifully luscious and smoky flavour.

Try roasting a batch of peppers and preserving in oil or freezing for adding to chillies and bolognaise for those sweet notes.

Green peppers are often used in Indian cooking and this mildly sour creamy chutney is a delicate alternative to raitha.

We had never really thought about a curried gravy to add to a Biriyani or dry curry before, but this blogger Swathi’s recipes has opened our eyes to a number of possibilities to create a sauce which can be used alongside various main courses for all our vegetarian/meat eating guests…genius.

If you are looking for the ultimately sophisticated canape, then these little balls of red pepper puree with goat’s cheese are just delightful to look at, never mind eat.

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A more earthy take from these Great British Chefs borrows flavours from Greek cooking to take a quintessentially British lamb stew up a notch with their Lamb and Red Pepper Ragout.

Finally, peppers are so sweet but we haven’t come across them as an actual sweet before and not sure why.  We love this Great British Chef site so much for their unusual and creative spin on old favourites.  However, these red pepper tuile biscuits are extremely impressive and we think would work equally well alongside a sorbet as a canape.

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Visit us at our website

www.finandfarm.co.uk

 

Perfectly Seasonal – Sussex Grown Peppers

Practical Advice – Storing and Using Spinach

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Our organic spinach from Fletching Glasshouses is brilliant to have in the kitchen for more than just taste reasons.  The leaves are larger than baby spinach but not as large as the huge mature broad leaf.  This is a godsend in that it’s pretty versatile as it’s mild enough to shred in a salad but also robust enough to wilt – which is pretty hard to do with baby leaves.

Anyway you care to use it…it’s freshly picked when we deliver so we couldn’t possibly waste such a lovely bag of nutritious goodness!


How to cook spinach

The best way to cook spinach is to wilt it gently.  Just be careful not to overcook and lose the vibrant green colour and rich flavour.

Method

1.  Clean the spinach thoroughly to remove any grit from the leaves. Heat a large pan with a knob of butter
2.  Add the spinach – the leaves touching the base of the pan will wilt very quickly, so stir occasionally to ensure all of the raw leaves make contact with the base. Season with salt
3.  Once the spinach has just about wilted, remove the pan from the heat and strain off any excess liquid. Serve immediately.

How to store

A bag of slimy wilted leaves is pretty offputting.  Obviously, the best thing in the kitchen is to use up greens as quickly as possible to make the most of their nutritious benefits – but given that it isn’t always possible, you can extend the life with careful storage.

Here is a link to storing spinach with The Kitchn which gives you tried and tested results using different storage methods.  We love these blogs where people give really useful tips!  NB – this is why our leaves are always sold in plastic bags.  Not because we don’t have environmental concerns but but because even freshly picked leaves can dry and wilt while we are driving around the Sussex roads in the few hours from picking if they are put into brown paper bags.

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 Alternative Ways to Use Spinach

There are loads of regular ways to use spinach…sauteed, soups dah di dah… But here are some more ways that may well be useful if you’re looking to add more greens to your diet…

Torta Pasqualina – OK this is a little late for Easter, but a delicious spinach, artichoke, parsley and egg pie is a perfect dish for either a vegetarian main course or even picnic slices (if the rain stays away).

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Picture: http://www.misya.info/2014/04/01/torta-pasqualina.htm

Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette – It’s the vinaigrette made from a little of the melted bacon fat mixed with a red wine vinegar glaze that makes this so special.  This is a salad haters salad!


Quick Quesadillas – these are our daughter’s favourite snack from school and she can cook a pile of them in minutes.  Keep them healthy by using feta cheese and avoiding the sour cream.  Combine with a strawberry salsa for full antioxidant benefits.


Puree spinach and add to pancake batter for super-healthy pancakes.  They genuinely go with sweet fillings like banana and blueberry so if your kids are up for green pancakes, these really do work.


Spinach and aromatic herbs are perfect partners.  Combining with sage and parmesan makes this a perfect quick supper dish as Spaghetti Piemontesi

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Again, strong flavours work well with spinach and these little Creamy Smoked Haddock and Spinach Omelette Appetisers would work equally well left as longer wraps as part of a main course.

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When our daughter was small, we kept pureed spinach in ice cube trays in the freezer and added it to just about everything.  We lost the habit as she got older and ate adult food but it’s a great way to add extra iron, vitamins and minerals to a dish quickly and without any hassle…whatever you’re cooking…pasta sauce, soups, stews etc.


Add to scrambled egg or scrambled tofu.  The flecks are pretty and it adds earthiness to any breakfast dish…and a bit less washing up than making a traditional Eggs Florentine.


Use pureed spinach as a pizza topping instead of tomato.  Just as delicious and a perfect partner for rich cheese melted on top.  Try this spinach garlic puree or even a spinach pizza base…(just don’t let anyone see the raw dough…it looks amazing cooked, but raw…really not a good advertisement for a delicious dough.


 

Visit us at

www.finandfarm.co.uk

Practical Advice – Storing and Using Spinach

Organic Heritage Salad Leaves from Fletching Glasshouses

saladbannerv1About Fletching Glasshouses

There’s always the risk that leaves form the base of a salad allowing other ingredients to take centre stage. But once you’ve served a really good salad leaf mix, then you are spoiled for ever after as second rate greenery just doesn’t cut the mustard..

Isobel and Emily Rae, who own and run Fletching Glasshouses have years of experience growing a broad variety of certified organic crops. It’s their experimental flair of combining leaves that has created really special fragrant and colourful salad mixes.

This season there’s a tantalising selection of mixed bags and also some fantastic heritage leaves to mix your own combinations.

Fletching

Fletching Glasshouses is pretty unique. Firstly, it’s no ordinary set of greenhouses as the Raes have dug a reservoir on the land. It’s not just a picturesque place to hang out but is a haven for wildlife and creates an environmentally supportive way of supplying water to the plants.

Secondly, the growing culture has a personal touch with the careful choice of leaves that they choose to plant. Every year the salads have a special secret ingredient – well, perhaps not secret, but something different to create exciting new flavours as the seasons progress.

Thirdly, the leaves are genuinely freshly picked. Early each morning, there is a team of people picking ready for collections a short while later – and we generally arrive on our collection round about 8ish or so – so the salads have not long left the ground. Leaves are bright and crunchy without the generally sad droop that you find in commercially packing.


 What’s in the Salad Mixes

In the winter salads you’ll find Tere – which isn’t well known as a salad leaf here but eaten widely in Turkey. It looks like a sturdy fleshy rocket leaf and has a wasabi kick which melts into a sweet aftertaste which is a little citrussy.

You’ll see Tere in the potent Mustard Mix salad, which compliments and adds roundness to the spicy Mustard frills and a little is added to the Herb and Spring Salad Mixes to give a small amount of keenness to the milder flavours.


Organic Mixed Bags

There are two mixes available this week – Summer Mix and Mustard Mix with a delicious Herb Mix soon to come:

Summer Mix

The Organic Summer Mix is a soft, leafy mix of seasonal leaves.  The actual mix varies week by week depending on what’s flourishing or picked but generally it’s an aromatic mix of:

  • A selection of young freshly picked lettuce leaves – Butterhead, Oak Leaf (Red and Green) and Little Gem
  • Chicory – Sugar Loaf and Rosso
  • Land Cress
  • Claytonia
  • Sorrel – Red Vein and French

Mustard Mix

A spicy mix of Tere, mustard leaf, mizuna and purple frilled leaf.  With a little salad from above to give balance – especially chicory to give the tang to compliment the sharper leaves.  This is a zesty salad mix.

  • Spicy Leaves – Tere, Red Mustard frills, Mizuna
  • Salad Mix – as above
  • Bitter mix – Sugar loaf chicory and Rosso

 Coming Soon – Herb Mix

Soon we will have some wonderful Herb Mix – gentle salad leaves with fragrant edible flowers – marigold and borage and added fragrant chives and parsley.


Organic Heritage Leaves

Currently, Fletching are also growing a fabulous range of heritage leaves that have been well known staples, but you generally don’t find in the shops…Here are just a few that are currently growing….

 Claytonia – you can buy this as a single leaf

 

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Also known as Winter Purslane or Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia has pretty heart shaped leaves with tiny central flowers. Originally it grew in America and took its name from the California Gold Rush Miners who ate it to prevent scurvy. So, a leaf rich in vitamin C as well as the B vitamins and iron.

It’s a fantastic leaf as it isn’t bitter and is fresh tasting and mild. . It’s fairly fleshy, so can easily be used as a substitute for spinach – a pretty versatile leaf for the kitchen.

 Land Cress – available as a single leaf

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Land Cress is rich and peppery like watercress but a smaller denser leaf. It is a native cress although now it’s often known as American Cress and has always provided greenery through the winter months. These dense leaves are also pretty versatile and can be cooked – although they pretty much melt instantly, so flash cooking required.

Red Mustard Frills – also as a single leaf bag

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Picture from the Biking Gardener

Mustard greens are something of a superfood as they are reputed to reduce cholesterol and are anti-inflammatory and have powerful antioxidants according to studies.  Red Mustard frills has a vibrant wasabi flavour and crunchy texture – it’s the spiciest leaf in the mustard family.  The frills are radiant, deeply serrated leaves with slim green stems.

Mizuna – Also single leaf bags available

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Mizuna is has long deeply serrated silky leaves with trailing stems that meet at its root base. Mizuna has a bright sharp but earthy flavour which is a beautiful bridge between a spicy and a sweet salad leaf.

Salad Rocket – as a single leaf

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The organic rocket that Fletching grows is a broad leafed mildly spicy variety with a full sweet flavour.  The peppery flavour of rocket is renowned for it’s pairing with deep smoky flavours like pancetta and parmesan.  It goes deliciously with the Mestó olive oil, where the grassy notes sit beautifully with fresh tangy rocket.

French Sorrel (from next week) – as a single leaf bag

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Sorrel was once a staple leaf in British cooking and traditional medicine, but somehow dropped out of everyday use. French Sorrel is the broader larger leaf that we generally find under the name ‘Sorrel’ and a bit milder than the Red Vein variety.

It’s great with fish and eggs, but old recipes add it to Turnips and Swede and wilted down with butter as an accompaniment to goose or pork instead of apple sauce. The old cookery book we looked through described it as adding a ‘quickness’ to salads rather than tartness – which we think sounded beautifully descriptive.


 What to do with these wonderful leaves?

Cook up a fresh and healthy supper or brunch with a Land Cress Frittata with Ricotta and Parmesan…and in the spirit of being local, you could use Sussex Organic Ricotta and Veggie Parmesan cheese.

Land Cress in a delicious raw state works well in this recipe for Grilled Scallops with Land Cress and Tarragon Mayonnaise. If you can’t find scallops then chicken would work well and we stumbled across an intriguing blog which gave a recipe for vegan scallops.

Claytonia – Hearts for your heart. A healthy salad recipe with walnuts, parmesan and apples.There are loads of recipes but truthfully, it’s lovelier raw and even looks pretty in a vase.

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Claytonia pairs beautifully with marjoram, avocado and nuts and white beans, as well as hard cheese, fish and shellfish. If serving with meat, the most delicious pairings are with duck and lamb.

Sorrel – where to start? It’s delightful with fish and eggs, but works as a perfect partner with goat’s or sheep’s cheese as well. Use as a foil for strong leafy greens and you’ll love it as a leaf in the Mustard Mix salad.

Try in the summer with a White Peach and Sorrel salad with honey vinaigrette for a real mix of sweet and tart flavours.

If you love Middle Eastern flavours, then try Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for Fried Beans with Sorrel, Feta and Sumac as lovingly described by David Lebovitz.

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I have heard that in Crete Sorrel is used in a version of Dolmades – little folded pastry triangles stuffed with rice and seasoned with fresh herbs and cooked in olive oil.

Sorrel is also a fantastic partner to Salmon where a sorrel sauce is eaten in one form or other throughout Europe.

Pozole Verde is a traditional rich Mexican dish which uses wild sour-grass to contrast with pork belly and sharp lime, but in Diana Kennedy’s delicious recipe uses sorrel.

Mizuna has a bright and slightly earthy peppery flavour.  Try a delicious and simple potato salad by tossing fingerling potatoes with chopped mizuna and olive oil.

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Salad Rocket is made to go with pancetta and Jamie has the perfect recipe here for a warm salad.

When in doubt, then you can never go wrong with rocket pesto. Let’s face it, Basil is a summer veg but we want to enjoy some fresh greens and pesto takes seconds to whizz up in a food processor – and you can keep a jar in the freezer to cheer up a rainy day.

Make a powerful Salsa Verde with Red Mustard Frills, olive oil, garlic and capers.  Wonderful with pasta.

 

 Visit our website at

www.finandfarm.co.uk

 

 

Organic Heritage Salad Leaves from Fletching Glasshouses

Wild Garlic – How to use it

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Our Morghew Park Wild Garlic

Wild garlic is prolific at this time of year, if you know what you are looking for and have time to don your wellies and head out into the countryside for the few weeks it is around.

The first bit is the easy bit – it’s easy to find as you can smell the gentle whiff of garlic in the air – but if time is not your friend, then heading out to shady woods before everyone else has got there first, might not work for you.

Our garlic is foraged on the private Morghew estate by the owners, so there is no risk to the environment by stripping the woodland.  Morghew Estate is set in the most stunning woodland and arable land (where our potatoes are grown, by the way) and is managed sensitively and responsibly.

Continue reading “Wild Garlic – How to use it”

Wild Garlic – How to use it

Leftover Light Apple Fruit Cake

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A leftover apple cake that is lighter than traditional fruit cakes – would make a perfect Simnel cake.

I was browsing ways of using up a couple of our Ringden Farm Egremont Russets and Jonagold apples that were a little past their prime and thought I’d make a cake for a friend coming over for supper.  Cake recipes are generally heavy on refined sugar one way or another so we thought the best balance is probably to incorporate more fruit and eat a delicious cake in smaller slices, using the best ingredients possible.

This cake is pretty much a lighter version of a fruit cake, but you could swap leftover ingredients or use whatever dried fruit you have in the cupboard.  It would work equally well with cranberries, cherries or pears.

It’s a nice grown-up kind of cake as well, that would work equally well with afternoon tea or as a delicious Easter Simnel Cake.

One thing is that we don’t eat cake every day – but when we do, it has to taste bloody good. We came across this cake on the BBC site, which with a bit of tweaking became the cake below and it’s one we’ve added to our little black book of cakes to repeat.

The comments on the BBC site said their cake was a little crumbly, so we upped the apple content to give it some moisture (worked brilliantly) and to counterbalance the fat.

It’s a little heavy on the butter side, but we only use Sussex Southdowns butter and this is our small indulgence (Southdowns is a traditionally-made butter that goes off if you don’t use it, unlike most commercial butters which must be irradiated or something…).

We have pinned this recipe in our December notes as it would make a fantastic lighter Christmas cake if you include homemade glacé cherries and nuts.  On the subject of which, if you’re foraging around at the back of the cupboard, then we found the remains of a bottle of Cointreau from the Christmas cocktails and soaked the dried fruit beforehand.

Nick is most definitely not a fruit cake fan, but he liked this as it has a lighter texture and is more moist and plump than a traditional fruit cake without the heavy leaden lining on your stomach afterwards!

Apple Fruit Cake

Ingredients

  • 150g dark muscovado sugar
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened plus extra for greasing
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 large tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 200g spelt flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 good size eating apples , grated (approx 120g each)
  • 300g mixed sultanas and raisins
  • A drizzle of Cointreau or brandy
  1. Put the dried fruit in a dish and drizzle over the liqueur.  Leave to absorb for a couple of hours.
  2. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
  3. Butter and line the bottom of a deep, round 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Beat the first seven ingredients together in a large bowl (electric hand- beaters are best for this), until pale and thick. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the fruit until evenly combined.
  4. Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 50 mins-1 hr or until the cake is dark golden, springy to the touch and has shrunk away from the tin slightly. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when it’s ready.
Leftover Light Apple Fruit Cake

Howgate Wonder Baked Apples With Rhubarb

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Of course, we always recommend our Bramley apples from Ringden Farm over near Etchingham – BUT on this occasion we urge you to try the early Howgate Wonders.  When they are picked early they are mild and citrussy but their flavour mellows over time.  They are a different kettle of fish to the Bramley so ring the changes with a traditional Edwardian cooking apple.

This recipe waxes lyrical about eating outside on a summer’s day – but since apples and rhubarb are at their sweetest and best, we will have to sit by the radiator and pretend.

A note about the recipe….we wouldn’t bother with the demerara sugar, sticking as we do to a good local honey…especially a borage honey if you can find it, for the fragrant rosy flavour and aroma.

We also sell delicious creamy yoghurt but the large tubs are generally to special order, as most people prefer low fat, these days.

To overcome this and keep variety in our fridge, we often have a pot of Northiam Creme Fraiche and mix with low fat yoghurt (if we mix it – it’s so rich and creamy, it’s tempting to leave as is)…it gives another layer of tart depth to the flavour which works well with the malic acid in the apples.

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Baked Howgate Wonder apple and rhubarb with vanilla-honey yoghurt

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 6 apples
  • 150g of rhubarb, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 15g of butter
  • 1 tbsp of Demerara sugar, to sprinkle
  • 200g of Greek yoghurt
  • 40ml of honey
  • 1 vanilla pod
1  Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
2  Score each apple horizontally to slightly pierce the skin – this allows the flesh to expand while cooking.
3  Core the apples by pushing an apple corer down through the apple until it pierces the bottom, discard the core. Repeat for all apples.
4  Mix the rhubarb, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Stand the apples up side by side in a baking dish.
5  Use your fingers to push the rhubarb mixture into each apple, dividing the mix evenly.
6  Add a blob of butter to the top of each and sprinkle over the Demerara sugar.
7  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the apples are cooked through – you can check this by piercing the apples with a skewer.
8  Meanwhile, split the vanilla pod in half with a small knife. Scrape out the seeds and add to a bowl with the yoghurt and honey, whisk to combine.
9  Remove the apples from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve on plates with the yoghurt. Drizzle over the juices from the baking tray.

 

Recipe by Nathan Outlaw – Great British Chefs

Howgate Wonder Baked Apples With Rhubarb