When the pandemic hit last year, and we were all confined to home as the first lockdown was introduced, the kitchen became the heart of the home more than ever. Interest in home cooking spiked, and demand for recipes increased as we all looked for new ways to make cooking three meals a day as appealing as possible.
EuroToques Ireland, the community of chefs and producers that is part of a European group working towards safeguarding and preserving food heritages, responded, and Kitchen Cabinet was created here at Irish Times Food. Over the following months 100 chefs wrote about the food they were cooking at home, and recipes were created. You can still read them all here if you need a bit of dinner inspiration.
Now they're back, to support Food Month at The Irish Times. Every weekday during November you'll find a recipe here that we hope will inspire you to make a quick and easy dinner, or a treat to share with friends. The chefs have a message this time: they want to celebrate and support the Irish food producers who play such a strong part in what they do.
We start the series with an apple-and-almond tart from JR Ryall, who is head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House.
It seems as though everyone adores frangipane fruit tarts, and the version I am sharing here is a particular favourite of mine. In Normandy, in northern France, where this style of tart is traditional fare, the almond filling is sometimes flavoured with Calvados, an apple brandy from the region.
When I make this tart at Ballymaloe I much prefer to use Longueville House Irish Apple Brandy, an exceptional spirit distilled in north Co Cork by the O'Callaghan family. The rich flavour of this artisan brandy makes the tart particularly irresistible.
Longueville House Beverages are producers of small-batch, premium, artisan ciders and brandy in Mallow. William O'Callaghan and his father, Michael, before him have been fermenting craft cider and distilling apple brandy for more than 30 years, using only heritage, heirloom cider apples, namely Michelin (Normandy) and Dabinett (Somerset) grown in the orchards of the beautiful Blackwater Valley.
Use crisp and juicy dessert apples in this recipe. Worcester Pearmain and Cox’s Orange Pippin both work particularly well, but if you have a favourite heritage variety of apple available to you, try using those instead.
JR RYALL’S BALLYMALOE APPLE AND ALMOND TART
300g sweet shortcrust pastry (see below)
100g soft unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 large egg yolk
100g ground almonds
1tbsp plain flour
2tbsp Longueville Irish Apple Brandy
4 large dessert apples
1tbsp caster sugar, to sprinkle
4tbsp apricot glaze (see below), warmed (optional)
Softly whipped cream, to serve
For the sweet shortcrust pastry (makes 2 x 300g pieces)
310g plain flour
25g icing sugar
55g caster sugar
175g cold salted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
1 small egg, lightly beaten
For the apricot glaze (optional)
110g apricot jam
60ml lemon juice
1 To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar, caster sugar and butter into the barrel of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Turn on the motor using the pulse button, so it rubs the butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles very fine crumbs. (You can also do this by hand. ) Tip the crumblike mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the egg to the crumblike mixture and, using your fingers, gently mix and work everything together to form a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half and form each piece into a disk and wrap in parchment paper. Rest the pastry in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
2 For the pastry base, preheat the oven to 180 Celsius/gas 4. Line a 23cm/9in flan ring with the sweet pastry. Blind bake to a pale golden colour – approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn up the oven to 200 Celsius/gas 6.
3 For the frangipane, put the butter in a mixing bowl and begin to cream it with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the sugar and continue creaming until the mixture is light and soft. Add the whole egg followed by the egg yolk, beating between each addition. Add the flour, beat well once more and then fold in the ground almonds and the apple brandy. Spoon the frangipane into the blind-baked pastry case and smooth over the surface.
4 Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into slices about 3mm thick. Arrange the slices of apple on top of the frangipane and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the top.
5 Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the pastry begins to brown lightly, then reduce the temperature to 180 Celsius/gas 4 and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the frangipane is set in the centre. Remove from the oven to a wire rack.
6 To make the glaze, place the jam and lemon juice in a small saucepan on a low heat. Gently warm until the jam softens and dissolves into the lemon juice. Remove the pot from the heat and pass the hot mixture through a fine sieve. Use straight away while still warm or rewarm when required.
7 Brush the surface of the tart with the apricot glaze, if using, while it is still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.
Kitchen Cabinet is a series of recipes for Food Month at The Irish Times from chefs who are members of Euro-Toques Ireland, in support of Ireland’s food producers. #ChefsMeetProducers