THIS being the day before British Food Fortnight 2011, Jane inspires with a tutti fruity classic tarte tatin using the best of British fruits.
Up to a week ago, I had three trees bursting with beautiful Victoria plums. Having decided to make a lovely plum tarte tatin for your delectation this week, and armed with a basket, I went to pick the plums needed...
But to my absolute horror, I found the trees, which a week before were heavily laden, had been stripped completely bare. Not one single plum was left. Even the horrid, bruised, wasp-ridden windfalls on the ground had disappeared.
At first I thought we had been the victims of a human plum thief but then realising that he or she would not have bothered picking up rotten windfalls, plus they would have needed a ladder as the very old trees are trained along a high wall, my thoughts turned to the bird/animal kingdom.
Ah, my beloved red squirrels! A quick questionnaire to various folk who are knowledgeable on the matters of wildlife confirmed that red squirrels love plums, stripping whole trees at the precise moment the plums ripen, just as they do with nut trees.
Why this hasn't happened before I have no idea as I have been feeding and nurturing a colony of squirrels here for many years and gathering a bountiful plum harvest at the same time.
So far my squirrels have not been able to put a foot wrong, highly cherished as they are, but now briefly they are somewhat less cherished!
How easy it must have been for them to gather their harvest with the trees being trained against a wall. No precarious dangling from long floppy branches to gather their swag and a nice wall to run along for transportation to their winter storage depots.
So, today's recipe is for tarte tatin made the traditional way with apples. I would like to be able to tell you that I have a glut of apples at the moment as we're in the middle of the English apple season, but sadly this isn't the case. For some extraordinary reason we don't have one apple tree, which is quite surprising considering that I am nuts about gardening and growing my own produce.
Instead a kind friend gave me a bag of her Cox's apples which are delicious. Their smell is scenting the whole kitchen which makes me feel permanently hungry (this is not unusual) and they look lovely piled up in a bowl flushed with their reddish orange colour.
Some people tell me they are put off making this tart when they see it in a book as it looks too difficult, especially as it needs turning out.
When they see just how easy it is they are amazed, so please do give it go – you won't be disappointed.
For dates and details of cookery demos, Easy Make-Ahead Winter Suppers, and A Festive Dinner Party, which Jane will be demonstrating in October and November at her home near Chatton, visit www.janelovett.com
APPLE TARTE TATIN
FOR this classic French tart you will need a 20cm (8in) ovenproof frying pan, or better still a 'Silverwood' or other tarte tatin dish, available from most kitchenware shops.
Failing these, any shallow, round ovenproof dish will do. Be very careful when turning out if using a frying pan, as the handle will be extremely hot.
The tart can be made a day or two in advance and reheated to lukewarm in a low oven 20 minutes or so before serving.
Recipe (serves 6-8):
125g (4oz) butter
125g (4oz) granulated sugar
6 large crisp eating apples such as Cox's
225g (8oz) puff pastry (ready rolled is fine)
1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6. Melt the butter and sugar together in the pan (see above for pan details).
2. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Arrange in concentric circles starting around the edge of the pan, on top of the butter and sugar, sitting on their sides snuggled up closely against each other. Continue until you have used all the apples and the middle is filled in.
3. Place the pan over quite a high heat until the mixture has caramelised to a good rich, dark golden brown. This will take about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.
4. Roll the pastry out into a circle about 1in larger than the pan and the thickness of a 2p coin. Place over the top of the apples, tucking any extra pastry down between the sides of the tin and the apples. Prick with a fork 3 or 4 times.
5. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
6. Leave to rest for a few minutes before loosening around the edges with a palette or round-bladed knife and carefully inverting onto a flat round plate. Don't worry if one or two apples remain in the pan, just pop them back into their empty slot.