Thank you very much to Richard and Karen Ecclestone for Truly Scrumptious in the last Digest –- a delicious spicy fish dish – just what we are needing as the nights draw in. Introducing guest contributors Kevin Wood and Gavin Tait of the Donhead Apple Company, we are this month treated to another warming recipe that is truly perfect for autumn.
We have just come back from two weeks’ holiday and I am taken aback by how quickly summer seems to have rolled into autumn. Gone are the long hot days – ok, wet ones in our case – to be replaced with chilly, dewy mornings and dark evenings that are fast creeping in. It is the time of the year when you want to reach for thick woolly jumpers and enjoy home cooked comfort food, snuggled up next to a warming glowing log fire. This month’s recipe is the warming Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew made with the local award winning Donhead craft cider (we have just won our 1st Great Taste Award!).
We have the pleasure in guest writing from our kitchen overlooking the glorious Vale of Wardour with our cider orchard in the foreground. It is amazing how fast the trees have grown since we first planted the orchard on a cold December weekend back in 2011. We planted 500 trees then and now have over 800 trees. We’re forever saying there is no more room for any but it’s amazing how the odd one sneaks in here and there when no one is looking.
We grow six cider apple varieties and one dessert. The varieties were chosen both so that they would pollinate each other (with the help of the new beehive) and so that the blend of bitter sweets and bitter sharps will produce a rounded cider with rich tannins that will soften and mellow during the nine months between pressing and bottling. Varieties such as Kingston Black, Somerset Red Streak, Yarlington Mill and Harry Masters Jersey evoke images of times past when cider was an essential currency in attracting farm labour.
As the trees mature our annual harvest increases and, so far, this year looks like being a vast improvement upon last. Cider apples usually ripen later than dessert apples and it’s not uncommon for harvesting to take place in November. Something about the aspect of the Donhead orchard, however, seems to give us an early harvest so, by the time you read this, picking may have started.
There are plenty of fantastic British dessert apple varieties coming into season too, but most of us would have trouble just naming a few – Braeburn, Bramley, Cox, Discovery and Pink Lady. What about trying a Blenheim Orange, Feltham Beauty, Egremont Russet, Worcester Pearmain or a Laxton’s Superb? We have a Worcester Pearmain in the orchard and it has a sweet to pleasant flavour which if left improves as the apples ripen.
If you are walking along the footpath please stop and say hello. We always love to chat and talk about the apples, the orchard and most importantly the cider! Whether it’s baking a fruity Dorset apple cake, cooking a tangy apple sauce to go with your roast pork on a Sunday or simply enjoying a bottle of award winning Donhead Craft Cider, enjoy autumn, buy apples and remember to buy British.’
Gavin & Kevin www.donheadapple.com
Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew with Buttery Mash
Approx. £9.75 for the stew when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
For the Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew
3 tbs Plain flour 8 Free range skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved
4 Free range skinless chicken breasts, halved
2 tbs Olive oil
4 Leeks – sliced into chunks
200g Carrots – sliced into chunks
200g Baby turnips
500ml Chicken stock
750ml Donhead Craft Cider
Bunch Fresh tarragon – chopped
4 English eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into large chunks
For the Buttery Mash
900g Potatoes (Desiree or King Edward)
50g Unsalted butter
50ml Single cream
Freshly ground salt and cracked black pepper
Make the Chicken, Apple & Cider Stew (Suitable for freezing after step 3)
1. Coat your chicken in flour seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a large casserole and sear the meat in batches until golden brown (4–5 minutes). I highly recommend following this step as you can easily skip it; this locks in all of those nice chicken flavours which will add to your dish.
2. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, lower the heat and then add the remaining oil.
3. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots and turnips. Next add your apples, chicken stock, Donhead cider and freshly chopped tarragon. Bring to the boil, cover, then lower the heat and simmer for 45–50 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
4. When ready to serve add a little extra tarragon and a good grinding of freshly cracked black pepper and a hearty portion of buttery mash. Make the Buttery Mash
5. Use a potato peeler to peel the skins as thinly as possible and then cut the potatoes into even-sized chunks.
6. Put the potato chunks into a large saucepan then pour boiling water over them. Add a pinch of salt, put the lid on and simmer gently until they are absolutely tender (approx. 25 minutes).
7. When cooked, drain the potatoes, and add the butter and single cream. Cover them with a clean tea towel to absorb some of the steam for about 5 minutes. Then, using a potato masher or back of a fork, begin to break them up.
8. As soon as the butter and cream are incorporated, season well with salt and freshly ground cracked black pepper and serve piping hot.
A truly truly, scrumptious stew that makes enough for two batches so that you can make dinner once but enjoy eating it twice!
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.