Mel asked me to write a review for her website, which you can read at the bottom of this post. My only proviso after using one of her recipes is that she really needed a good editor! (Sorry Mel; and I'm available.) I also like to see recipes that have the list of ingredients in order of use, but that is a small quibble. I had to do a bit of guesswork to fathom this recipe out, and I made a couple of very slight changes, but it's pretty much Mel's dish as per her book.
|our mate Ms PP holding up her piece of pie (cute toes)|
Here is my ever-so-slightly adapted version of Mel's recipe:
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (or make your own - now stop that cackling, folks)
3 tbs apricot jam
250 mLs really thick custard
70g. almond meal
1 tsp vanilla extract
100 mLs of thickened cream
2 large apples, sliced thinly - or use stone fruit of your choice
a pinch of cinnamon (optional)
50 mLs milk - to brush the pastry
2 tbs granulated (white) sugar - to cast over the top of the pie
1 cup (125g.) of icing sugar
about 1 tbs hot water - maybe a bit more, or a bit less
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cocoa powder
Place one sheet of the thawed pastry onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper
Spread the apricot jam over the pastry, leaving a 2cm. border on all sides
Whisk the custard, almond meal, vanilla and cream together - it should be really thick; you don't want it to seep out the sides
Now spoon this mixture on top of the jam and spread it out
Place the apple slices neatly over the custard mixture, and throw on the cinnamon if using
Fold the second piece of pastry in half lengthwise and slice on the fold to make a lattice pattern, leaving a border of 2cm.
Brush around the custard and apple filling with milk, then place the second piece of pastry over the whole shebang (after gently unfolding it so you have one large piece again)
Press down the edges, and brush the pie with the rest of the milk
Sprinkle the sugar over the top, and bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes or till golden
Take the pie out of the oven and cool for a few minutes while you beat the icing ingredients together EXCEPT the cocoa powder
Reserve 2-3 tbs of the icing and mix the cocoa into it
Now drizzle all the white icing over the pie, then the reserved cocoa icing for contrast
Delicious hot or cold, with cream or icecream or nude (tee hee)
You can buy 'thick custard' at the supermarket, or make your own, ensuring it is very thick - Mel says 'thick enough to bounce off a wall'
Try hazelnut meal for a change
Use red or green apples, as you wish - I used Royal Gala (red)
|spread the apricot jam over the pastry|
|stir the custard mixture together|
|spread the custard over the jam|
|slice the unpeeled apples thinly|
|cut the lattice pattern into the fold of the pastry (Mr P. did it for me)|
|layer the apple slices over the jam and custard (with the pinch of cinnamon)|
|place the pastry over the filling and sprinkle on the sugar|
|pour the icing over the pie|
|never mind the burnt bits :-)|
|golden and crunchy on top (well, just a bit burnt)|
This pie went down well with everybody. It was crunchy and golden on top, with a sweet, soft filling inside. The apples had cooked perfectly, and the icing added an even sweeter dollop to the whole affair. Yep, we had it with cream. Well, why not gild the lily when you can? :-)
|red apple artwork by Sherry's Pickings|
The book is written in her endearing and quirky style, but provides solid information and tips for the confident cook and the culinary novice. You'll find dozens of quickie recipes, and innovative ideas for meals. The recipe for Magical Moroccan Mince with pistachios and date gravel inspired this reviewer to take the brave step of letting the mince do its own thing without stirring and on a high heat, until the meat became brown and luscious - which kind of goes against your instincts but actually works. I now find myself using this technique often when cooking a protein, as does hubby.
Mel’s book gives you starters, sides and mains, plus desserts and cakes. Her Little Black Book of Culinary Bling is included in this book, giving you even more ideas to brighten up your plates. There is nothing pretentious about her recipes, just good, honest food that is easy to make, and will appeal to your family and friends. I first encountered this dessert in one of Mel’s cooking classes - Vanilla Apple Lattice Pie: puff pastry, apple slices, custard and cream and sugar, all baked to perfection and glazed with a vanilla and icing sugar paste.
There are plenty of illustrations, and a guide called How to Shop which gives the basics for your pantry items. I like the fact that there are no apologies for using shortcuts like bought puff pastry. We all know the home cook is rarely, if ever, going to make her/his own! This is a handy and cheerful book, allowing you to try new recipes with confidence. You too will be able to cook fish with crispy skin, or end up with the perfect steak. As Mel says in her introduction: “you can almost have me right by your side guiding you all the way.” And yes, I think that’s exactly how you will feel! And while it’s not a huge tome, it is a useful and practical addition to your kitchen library.