One is an unexpected amount of money you receive, and the other is fruit blown off a tree by the wind.
Guess which one I get?
Yep, that's correct, anyone for apples?
But this is such a great time of year for fruit and British apples in a particular, so I don't mind for once.
The other day, one of my neighbours kindly gave me a bag of various apples that had fallen off the trees in her garden. The first thing I did given it was such a beautiful day was to take them for a little trip in the car to search out the wonderful autumnal light, the results of which you can see on some of these pages.
The second thing I did was to make a Tarte Tatin, one of my favourite apple recipes. There are many versions of Tarte Tatin, some bearing only a scant resemblance to the original, made famous by the Tatin sisters in their hotel in France in the late 1800's (allegedly).
The apples should be firm to enable them to keep their shape during cooking, which is why Bramleys aren't suitable since they will be too soft and mushy after cooking. I use a combination of Cox's Pippins and Granny Smith's as I like the touch of acidity the Granny Smith’s give me to offset the sweetness of the caramel.
Traditionally, puff pastry is the pastry of choice but I have had Tarte Tatin with shortcrust before, and though nice, it is not a patch on a buttery, crisp, flaky puff pastry. Make sure you buy a good all-butter one though, ready rolled to save more time, as this isn't the time to cut corners in a recipe with only four ingredients.
Making the caramel is probably the most important aspect of a good Tatin. It's really simple to do but also very easy to get wrong. A lovely golden caramel can go from perfect to overdone in a matter of seconds. Answering that phone call from your mother isn't the thing to do while making a caramel - are you listening mother?
And hot caramel has a temperature that would make Mount Vesuvius scream, so be very careful when making it.
Normally I would cook the Tatin in a non-stick ovenproof frying pan, but if you don't have such a thing (no plastic handles please) just cook the caramel and apples on the hob then transfer everything to a suitable round baking dish before putting on the pastry, and baking in the oven.
Here is my version of the Tatin sister’s famous dish, probably not that French, but still délicieux.
INGREDIENTS - serves 4 - 6
3-4 apples, depending on size (mix of Braeburn, Cox’s and Granny Smith’s), peeled and quartered
100g caster sugar
60g butter, cubed
1 star anise (I like the subtle background flavour this gives but leave out if you don't fancy)
320g pack of ready rolled all-butter puff pastry
Prepare the apple quarters and dry them with some kitchen roll.
Sprinkle the sugar over the base of a 20cm frying pan, then put the butter and star anise (if using) on top. (see pic)
Cook over a medium heat until it is all melted then stir with a wooden spoon when it starts to bubble. (see pic)
Gently bubble away until it comes to a lovely golden colour and fish out the star anise before you forget. If you prefer a darker caramel (think treacle toffee) cook for a few minutes longer but keep a close eye on it as it can change very quickly.
My own personal taste is for a darker caramel as I like the slight bitterness which offsets the sweetness of the apples, whereas my wife prefers a much lighter caramel as in her opinion absolutely nothing should offset the sweetness.
As soon as you have the colour of caramel you desire, quickly take off the heat and throw in the apple quarters. (see pic)
The pan will bubble fiercely but don't worry, it’s meant to do this as the juice from the apples mingles with the caramel but it will settle down.
Coat the apples in the caramel for a few minutes, then position them around the pan, (transfer carefully to a baking dish if you don't have an ovenproof frying pan) round side down making sure there aren’t any big gaps. Just cut some apple pieces to fill in the spaces if necessary.
Leave to cool while heating the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
Remove the puff pastry from the fridge, cut out a 22cm circle and lay over the now cooled apples. Press down and tuck the edges of the pastry under the apples using a spoon or spatula. (see pic)
Cook in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and leave for about 5 minutes. (see pic)
Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the Tatin and very carefully invert onto a plate or serving dish. The caramel will probably still be hot so be aware of any splashes - remember Mount Vesuvius!
Serve straight away with cream, creme fraiche or ice cream and rejoice in your windfall.