Nature’s bounty is all around us; in the woods, fields, moors and sea. Gill Miller serves up some culinary inspiration to help enjoy the best of it
Recipe: Crab apple & fennel seed leather
This is preserving at its simplest. You dry the fruit purée until there is no moisture left, intensifying every single element of flavour. With the bite of sweet fennel seeds, the resulting crab-apple leather is insanely good.
Makes 2 sheets
1kg crab apples, stalks removed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 Cook the crab apples with a splash of water in a large, heavy-based pan set over a gentle heat. Stirring regularly, cook for 45–60 minutes until the crab apples are very soft and broken down (if the fruit isn’t really pulpy, continue to cook until it is). Add more water if at any point the pan looks dry.
2 Remove from the heat and push the pulp through a mouli with a fine gauge into a clean bowl. (If you don’t have a mouli, you can rub the mixture through a sieve.) Add the honey, then the fennel seeds and stir well to combine. Taste for sweetness, adding more honey if you need to.
3 Heat the oven to low – around 60C/ Fan 40C/140F is good. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Divide the mixture equally between the two baking sheets, smoothing it out as evenly and as thinly as you can.
4 Place the baking sheets in the oven for 12–14 hours until the thin layers of pulp are completely dry, even at the centre. Remove from the oven and allow the trays to cool.
5 Lay out two clean pieces of baking parchment, each slightly longer and wider than the pieces of leather. Peel each leather off the baking sheet and lay it onto a prepared piece of clean parchment. Take one end of the first piece of clean parchment and roll it up with the leather inside. Repeat for the other piece of parchment and leather. The leather will keep in an airtight container for 4–5 months.
Turn to page 38 of November’s The Simple Things for more recipes from the land by Gill Miller, including Barley, squash and mushrooms with herb and crème fraîche dressing, Malted wheat loaf, Rabbit with pappardelle, Salted pollock with potatoes, cream and marjoram, and Cobnut, prune & chocolate tart.
Gill Meller is head chef at River Cottage and a food writer, and teaches at the cookery school. He lives in Dorset with his family. This recipe is taken from Gill’s first book, Gather (Quadrille), which is out now.