Easy Peasy Apple Pie, a.k.a. Your Cheatin' Tart

If you are lucky, you have one of those kitchens that people like to sit in, drinking wine and telling you stories while you wander backwards and forwards, cooking dinner for them. Cooking and stories go together well but sometimes you don't want people around when you cook. They steal food from under your knife, and, much worse, they'll see how much you cheat.

They'll find out that the hugely impressive meal was a moment's work. You won't get to do that glorious sham modesty, with the humble blush, "this? Oh, no, this is nothing special" when they praise your delicious works of art with requests for seconds and thirds.

When you make the easy peasy apple pie, send them out to the shops to buy you a packet of cigarettes. Make them be busy in another room, looking at photographs, choosing music, or bothering the cat. They will be appalled by how simple this pudding really is if they ever find out. If you are really sneaky, you can make these before your guests arrive, cover them in foil, and produce them when you are ready to cook the final course.

You'll need the following stuff

and all you need to do is:
  • roll out and cut out the pastry
  • peel, and slice the apples
  • arrange apples and sugar and butter on the pastry
  • cook them
Easy, no? OK, there's a little more detail, but not much. You can knock these up in ten minutes flat.

The full story on how to make Your Cheatin' Tart

Making pastry is a wonderful thing, and is almost as therepeutic as making bread. But making flaky pastry is a time-consuming pain in the arse if you're not in the right mood for it. Many good supermakets and delis sell ready made pastry that tastes wonderful. (But do check the ingredients. It should be made with butter and not vegetable oils. The ingredients list should be as short as possible. If it contains things you don't recognise, put it right back on the shelf.) Wrapped up tight in the fridge it can last three or four days if you are lucky, but it freezes well.

Put the oven on. Gas mark 5 or 6 (170-200C) is a good sort of temperature. You want to cook these fairly slowly, but hot enough so they can brown nicely on top.

Flour a flat surface so it doesn't get all sticky, and then roll your pastry out to about the thickness of a pound coin. (Um, an 1/8 of an inch or thereabouts. It's not science, though. A little thicker, a little thinner? No problem.) If you don't have a rolling pin, put some cold water into a clean glass bottle, and use that. It's a little awkward, but will do the trick.

Dig around in your cupboards until you find a couple of small side plates or saucers. You want one with a diameter about an inch, or two inches smaller than the other. You're going to make a tart for each person, so, think about how much pastry you've got, how piggy you want to be, and how big your oven and your baking trays are.

Put the larger plate on the pastry, and cut around it with a knife. Do this until you have a disk of pastry for each person. Next step is to make an edge, or a border, for each tart, by half-cutting through the pastry. This is one of the swanky but stupidly easy parts: by cutting the pastry like this, the outside edges will rise up and puff up all around the apple filling, and look glorious. So, put the smaller plate or saucer onto one of the disks, in the centre, and score around the edge. Put them on the baking trays, flan dishes, cake tins or whatever thin flat metal cooking containers you have. They don't need much room around the edges. They grow up, not out, when they cook. Put these to one side for now. Stick them in the fridge if it's a hot day.

Peel and core one smallish apple for each person (again, though, this depends on how big your pastry circles are.) Next, you need to cut the apples into thin thin slices. The thinner the better. You can be fancy, and cut apple rings, or you can cut orange-segment shaped pieces, which stack up nicely on the pastry.

Arrange the apple slices on the pastry, keeping inside the smaller circle that you have cut. Spiralling the slices around looks very fancy. It's ok if they are a bit wonky. Trust me on this, wonkiness adds to the charm. If it's too perfect it will look like it's come out of a packet. Cut tiny nicks off the butter, and put it in, around, and onto the apples. Use as much as you want, but don't miss it out altogether. It will make the apples softer and richer when they cook. Sprinkle some brown sugar onto, and among the apples. Just a little, maybe less than half a teaspoon on each tart.

They're ready to cook. Now's the time to encourage people to wander back into the kitchen. Your secret is safe.

They'll take around about 20 minutes to cook, depending on your oven, on how deeply you've piled the apples, and how much you're cooking at once. Check them after ten minutes, just in case. You want them to go all golden brown on the pastry, and all puffy round the edges.

Eat straight out of the oven, all crispy hot, late at night, with a strong vanilla ice cream, and a glass or three of orange-scented pudding wine.

p.s. Jamie Oliver had nothing to do with this recipe. No Naked Chefs were involved. Not a one. Nope.

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