The pie filled with apple slices
My roots are in the lush pasture and laden orchards of Somerset. I love this time of year in the West Country, when the countryside turns bright green as the weather gets warmer. This pie uses some of Somerset’s most prolific ingredients; apples and cheddar cheese. Like the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, West Country Farmhouse Cheddar has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) which means that it must be made in Somerset by European Law. The soil and climate are also perfect for growing apples; such is the abundance of the fruit, the local farmers brew gallons of invariably strong if variably tasty cider.
If I was a self-sufficient small-holder then this pie would use up the end of last autumn’s wrinkly apples from the pantry. Alas the only thing I am growing in my Norwich flat is a pepper plant on the window-sill, so I have bought some bramleys. The Idea came from the April chapter of The Times’ The Cookery Year, which accredits the custom of serving cheese with apple pie. I then tweaked the recipe by adding brandy and spices.
For the pastry:
- 225g plain flour
- 1/2 level teaspoon salt
- 110g unsalted butter
- 110g strong cheddar cheese
For the filling:
- 900g cooking apples
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp brandy
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 egg for glazing
- Cut the butter into small pieces and mix with the flour until crumbly.
- Add the salt, grated cheese and a little cold water and mix into a ball.
- Divide the pastry into two, roll one half into a sheet and line a 7 inch pie tin.
- Peel, core and slice the apples and lay them in the pie. Sprinkle over the sugar, spices and the brandy.
- Roll out the second half of the pastry, wet the edges of the lining and lay over the lid.
- Trim the edge, then crimp and decorate with the trimmings.
- Brush with a whisked egg, pierce an air hole in the top and bake for 35-40 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 220°C.
Crimped and decorated
The finished pie
In my excitement at cutting apple shapes out of the trimmings I completely forgot to pierce an air hole in the pastry lid, resulting in a big air pocket above the fruit. It ruined the aesthetic of the slice, but luckily it didn’t ruin the flavour. I cut the rest of the pastry trimmings into strips, glazed them and baked them for 20 minutes to make cheese straws. The top was very brown when I took them out, so I covered it with tin foil to stop it from burning.
The bite of strong cheddar along with the tartness of bramley apples is a real taste of Somerset. All I need now is a pint of scrumpey and the Wurzels on loud to transport me back to the West Country.