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Fruit of the tree of life

by
18 October 2013

by Simon Walsh

iStock

The Song of Soloman says: "As the apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my Beloved. . .", and a 17th-century carol imagined "Jesus Christ the apple tree". Maybe it was growing up in Somerset, or that my grandfather had an orchard, but apples have always been a big part of my life.

In medieval art, the cross was often portrayed as a living tree, with branches and fruit. The Victorians revived this symbolism, and the apple has been constant in Christian art, often with Christ's mother as the Second Eve.

In Somerset, apple trees are "wassailed" around Christmas to wish health for the coming year, and to offer something to the "spirits" of the orchard. Naturally, cider plays a part in the ceremony, as it does for these Pork chops with apples and cider. Cooking apples are around now, but Granny Smiths also work well. Chops are best, because the rind of fat helps with flavouring. Roast potatoes form a wonderful accompaniment.

4 pork chops or large steaks

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 leek, sliced

2 large cooking/tart apples, cored,

peeled, and chopped

1 tablespoon flour

1 chicken stock cube

1 teaspoon dried sage

500ml (1 pt) dry cider

250ml (½ pt) water

Heat some oil with a little butter in a flameproof casserole, and brown the pork evenly on each side. Remove to a plate, and cook the onion and leek over a low heat with a pinch of salt. Once pale and golden, add the apple pieces, and stir well. Mix in the flour and cook it for a minute.

Now add the stock cube and sage, and gradually stir in the cider and water. Bring to the boil, return the meat to the pan, then turn off the heat. Check for seasoning and cover. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes at 2000C/4000F/Gas 6. Serve with the sauce, a flavoursome gravy.

There are many apple puddings, including Eve's. Gauche mêlée means "clumsy mix" and that, in many ways, is what this one is. It is an old family recipe, passed down through my grandmothers, and a true childhood memory. I owe this recipe to my mother, who often makes it. Suet is unfashionable these days, but makes this a truly delicious pudding, and the vegetarian stuff is passable. Serve warm with custard, but it also good cold.

120g (4 oz) self-raising flour

60g (2 oz) shredded suet

90g (3 oz) sugar

Pinch of salt

500g (1 lb) cooking/tart apples,

peeled cored and chopped

¼ level teaspoon of grated nutmeg

small pinch of cinnamon

90ml (3 fl. oz) milk

Heat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas6 and grease a 2-litre/3-pint baking dish. Mix all the ingredients together, and pour into the dish. Sprinkle the top with a little extra sugar - brown, if possible. Bake for one hour until risen and golden brown on top. It will be firm and puffy. Leave to cool a little before serving warm with cream or custard.

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