According to Wrap's Household Food Waste report (2012) we throw away tens of thousands of tonnes of apples every year, apparently 40% of all apples bought in the UK. How could something that we once valued so highly become so worthless?
Admittedly some of the waste is unavoidable because we are throwing away the parts of the apple that we think is inedible (although they argue over at Foodbeast that we should be eating the whole thing). But most of the apples that are thrown away are disposed of because they have become mouldy or rotten. That is usually because we have bought too many and not used them in time, or because we haven't stored them in the best conditions.
Once you've bought your apples, store those that you are eating immediately at room temperature, the rest can go in the fridge. Apples stored in these cool conditions will last at least two weeks longer than those left out (so resist the temptation to arrange them attractively in the fruit bowl). In the days before refrigeration, many people wrapped their apples in newspaper or brown paper and laid them out on slatted wood shelves in a cool, dark place.
For most of the following recipes I am using British eating apples - the sort readily available from supermarkets, such as Braeburns or tart, green Granny Smiths. All of these recipes use eating apples. However, you could use cooking apples for some but not all. Bear in mind that all cookers, such as Bramleys cook down to a mush, which is great for sauces or crumbles but not very nice in a crunchy salad.
I have also chosen to give you the number of apples to be used in the recipe, rather than by weight. However, a quick weigh-in of my rather uniform supermarket apples showed that each weighed somewhere between 150g and 200g each. (Suddenly a recipe that calls for 500g of apples doesn't actually seem that much.)
1. A Vietnamese-style fish salad
I find the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce known as nuoc cham very appealing, as it is a lovely balance of sweet, sour and salty flavours. Consisting of fish sauce, rice vinegar or lime juice, garlic and chillies, it is typically served with summer rolls, grilled or fried meat and fish, and some noodle dishes. I wondered whether as well as using it as a dressing on a shredded apple salad that it might be rather good as a marinade for some fish too. I had another one of my singing and dancing around the kitchen moments as it tasted wonderful. (The next day, I tried using the marinade on some chicken thighs. That was pretty good too.)
The largest constituent ingredient of the salad is the green apple, to which I added some pickled carrots, which I love to keep on-hand in the fridge. These are very quick to make and the pickling process softens their texture which means they still have a bit of bite but not the jaw-aching crunch, which means that any leftover pickled carrots will stay fresh for a couple of days in the fridge and are lovely in sandwiches. (The pickling process also works with the apples themselves and on crunchy vegetables such as cucumber, sweet onion and radishes.)
2 sea trout or salmon fillets
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
quarter tsp salt
marinade and salad dressing:
120ml fish sauce
1 tbsp water
3-4 tbsp sugar (I used palm sugar, but white sugar will work too)
4 tbsp fresh lime juice or rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 fat mild red chilli, de-seeded and very finely chopped (you could use Birdseye chillies if you like it a bit hotter)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded
thinly sliced celery
2-3 iceberg lettuce leaves, shredded
Start by pickling the carrots. Combine the rice wine vinegar, granulated sugar and salt in a non-reactive bowl. Whisk thoroughly until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the shredded carrot. Stir well and set aside for about 1 hour before using. (This also stores well in the fridge for several days.)
In a non-reactive bowl, combine the fish sauce, water, sugar and lime juice. Whisk well to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Add the chopped garlic and chillies. Stir well to combine.
Place the fish fillets in a non-reactive dish, skin-side down. Pour over half of the marinade. Set aside in a cool place for about 10 minutes, while you make the salad.
In a non-reactive bowl, combine the shredded apples, chopped mango, celery and shredded lettuce. Top with drained pickled carrot.
Heat a frying pan or wok on a high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the fish fillets, skin-side down. Fry for about 3 minutes until the skin has begun to crisp. (Don't move the fillets around the pan as they will begin to break up). Once the skin has crisped up, flip the fillets over and cook for a further 2 minutes. (I like my trout or salmon slightly pink in the middle, but you may prefer to cook your fish for longer.)
Dress the salad with a little of the marinade and serve with the cooked fish.
2. Chorizo, apple and cider tapas
Pork, apple and booze; a winning combination. I love to make this Spanish tapa of chorizo cooked in cider with caramelised apples. You have the lovely fruity, smoky flavour of pimentón (smoked paprika) with the punchy flavours of chorizo sausages balanced with a little of the apple's tart sweetness. Choose the fresh or semi-cured sausages, rather than the cured ones, that don't actually need any cooking. The fresh ones will exude more oil and paprika which are then soaked up by the apples.
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
300g fresh chorizo, cut into slices about the width of 2 one-pound coins (less than 1cm)
1 tsp smoked paprika
12 Braeburn apples, cored and cut into chunks or slices
2 bay leaves
200ml dry cider
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and chorizo. Gently fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chorizo is beginning to colour and starting to crisp up. Fresh chorizo will exude fat into the pan together with some of the smoked paprika, creating a lovely, vibrant oily mixture. Don't be put off - there is a lot of flavour in this.
Add the apple pieces and mix well to ensure they are coated in the spicy oil. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the bay leaves and cider. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated off and you are left with a rich unctuous coating to the chorizo.
Tip into a warmed serving dish. Serve with cocktail sticks so that everyone can skewer a chunk of chorizo and apple. A glass of cold cider will go down well too.
3. Rojak (Malaysian mixed fruit salad)
I am going back to my roots with a Malaysian fruit salad recipe that is dressed with a rojak, a sweet and sour spicy dressing. Rojak translates as "hodgepodge". This may be the reason I love this fruit salad so much - a little bit of this and that, and all the flavours I like. It's sweet, slightly savoury, tangy, juicy, crunchy and refreshing. You can use a mixture of fruit such as pineapples, star fruit or papaya, or even vegetables such as cucumber. Omit the shrimp paste for a truly vegetarian version - shrimp paste is a very acquired taste so you may even prefer to leave out altogether.
Serves 3 to 4.
1 Braeburn apple, cored and cut into thin wedges
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into thin wedges
1 mango or papaya, cut into 2cm chunks
1 nashi (Asian) pear, cored and cut into thin wedges
3 plums, cut into wedges
For the rojak dressing
2 tsp shrimp paste (belachan)
1-2 tsp sambal oelek chilli paste (to taste) or 2-3 red bird's eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tamarind paste
Juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame seeds
40g roasted peanuts
zest of 2 limes
2 tbsp golden granulated sugar
1 tsp crushed chilli flakes (optional)
Prepare the first topping by dry-frying the sesame seeds until a light golden brown. Tip into a bowl to cool. Chop or grind the peanuts and add to the bowl.
Make the second topping by grinding together the lime zest, granulated sugar and chilli flakes (if using). Set aside.
Prepare the dressing by whizzing together about 100ml water with the shrimp paste, sambal oelek or chillies, tamarind and lime juice in a blender until very smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan with another 100ml water and the palm sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. (Add a splash of water if it is becoming too thick.) Sieve to remove any lumps or seeds, and add a little salt to taste. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the fruit for the salad and toss through the first topping, so that the fruit is lightly coated. Divide between 4 bowls, drizzle over the rojak sauce then sprinkle over the second topping.
Other ideas for using up apples
4. Yotam Ottolenghi's fresh tasting apple and cheddar salad with a cider vinegar dressing.
5. Before your apples get to the point of no return, it is worth drying them out. Jane Sarchet of The Hedgecombers dusts dried apple rings with cinnamon before storing.
6. Madalene Bonvini-Hamel of The British Larder restaurant makes a spelt and apple slice, which can almost convince yourself is terribly healthy!
7. If you fancy a bit of Americana, Tom Adams of Pitt Cue Co's apple ketchup recipe is a brilliant accompaniment to BBQ or roast pork.
8. For something savoury, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall makes parsnip and apple cakes.
9. Sarah Trivuncic of Maison Cupcake's smoked mackerel salad with apples, beetroot and horseradish sounds a perfect combination.
10. Ruby Tandoh's rye apple soda bread has a bright, tangy flavour; definitely something to try even for the most novice of bakers.
11. If you like a bit of history, Samuel Pepys mentions apple and ale fritters in his famous diary. There's a recipe for something similar in a fascinating recent discovery in the Westminster Archives from The Cookbook of the Unknown Ladies.
12. Love Food Hate Waste's simple apple (or pear) crisp sounds lovely.
13. George Orwell eloquently bemoaned the decline of traditional and regional English food in a powerful piece of writing In Defence of English Cookery in 1945. I made this apple and mincemeat suet dumplings in his honour, lest we forget.
14. As sure as pigs love apples, sausage and apple casserole from Ness at Jibber Jabber is a winner, beloved by kids and adults alike.
15. For something a little different, how about curried apple with coconut milk as an accompaniment to curry?
17. Apples are brilliant with black pudding and Anneli Faiers of Delicieux warm potato and apple salad with black pudding crumbs would be perfect with the new season Jersey Royals.
18. Ruth Clemens of The Pink Whisk and Great British Bake Off fame has a beautifully sticky toffee apple pie made with flaky pastry.
19. Bonnie's Swedish apple pie cardamom buns have definitely won a place in my heart.
20. Fancy making apple-infused vodka to make your own apple martinis at home? Core, quarter and thinly slice 2 apples. Place the apple pieces in a clean, wide-necked sealable glass jar. Top with vodka. Seal tightly and store in a dark place. Shake it to wake it; you will need to shake the jar once a day, in order to infuse the vodka with apple flavours. Since apples are quite delicately flavoured, this may take up to a week. (I would start tasting/testing after 3 days - all in the interest of science you understand.) When it is ready, strain the vodka into a clean jar. Although feel free to eat the vodka-infused apples for a boozy treat.
21. Sandra Cordero's little bit of genius is a sweet paella dessert, a twist on the classic rice dessert using paella rice.
There are many other apple recipes out there. Tell us what you like. Perhaps an Apple Charlotte, Dorset apple cake or strudel? An apple fool or a fresh-tasting sorbet? Or perhaps something savoury such as an apple chutney, a classic Normandy dish of pork with apples, or a simple apple and horseradish sauce? What would you do?
Vietnamese style fish salad. Photograph: Rachel Kelly
Chorizo, apple and cider tapas. Photograph: Rachel Kelly
Rojak Malaysian mixed fruit salad. Photograph: Rachel Kelly