Using your produce

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Apples and apple cake
Autumn harvest is a wonderful time in the garden, but sometimes there are gluts of produce that have to be used up and gardeners become very versatile and very creative, dreaming up recipes and sometimes quite weird and wonderful ways of using up an abundance of one type of fruit or vegetable. In days gone by things that couldn't be stored would be pickled, bottled or made into jams and chutneys. Since the invention of the deep freeze householders have been able to prepare and freeze a wide variety of fruit and veg but really there's nothing like using it fresh and tasting its real flavour. I love it in the spring when I can create a whole meal from garden produce. There's something very satisfying about using your homegrown produce to feed your family. When you grow something and harvest it to eat you are so much more aware of the time, effort, energy and even the money that has been invested into that crop. As a result every morsel and mouthful has even more inherent value.

Some years are better than others for different fruit crops but when you get a good year for apples you need to make the most of as much of them as possible. Of course a box of apples makes a lovely gift and you can use up many misshapen fruits by juicing them, but the rest need using and appreciating as quickly as possible. Fortunately in a household where even the dog likes apples that's not really an issue. I have favourite and pretty foolproof apple cake recipe that I use at this time of year. You can vary it depending on what fruit you have spare but it's a delicious, moist cake that lasts a week or more in the cake tin, unless it gets eaten earlier.

I'm not too good at following recipes to the letter and am always altering them according to what ingredients I have to hand and also to suit the taste of my family. I very rarely weigh ingredients, preferring to use a fairly reliable calculation that one slightly heaped tablespoon is about an ounce (25g) and a pack of butter can be easily divided into approximately one ounce chunks by cutting it into 8 even slices. I am sure that this would horrify many cooks but my trial and error approach rarely goes horribly wrong.

So the recipe for the apple cake goes something like this:

Peel, core and slice 4 large apples, or 6 smaller ones, keep them underwater to stop them discolouring. Then melt 2 ounces of butter or margarine in a large mixing bowl (the microwave is handy for this but be careful and don't have it on high, it only takes seconds rather than minutes!) Stir in 4 oz of sugar (use a little more if you've chosen to use cooking apples or if you prefer your cake very sweet); add a handful of sultanas (optional), two beaten eggs and mix it all together. Now add the sliced apple to this mixture and then stir in 8 ounces of (sieved) self-raising flour, mix well so that all the apple is coated and you have a thick but smooth consistency. Spoon this mixture into a greased cake tin and place in the middle of a hot oven (about 170C). Cover with greaseproof paper or a used butter wrap for the first 40 minutes or so and then remove. It usually takes about an hour to bake in a fan oven. You can check whether it's ready by pressing down on the top of the cake, if it springs back quickly then it should be cooked, but it really needs to look lovely and golden and smell nice too. Tip the cake out while it's still hot out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool slowly. It's delicious to eat warm and makes a great dessert served warm with vanilla ice cream and is a useful and quick cake to make for visitors. If you want to vary the recipe you can change the fruit, I've made this with rhubarb (add more sugar), pears, plums and even bananas and it works every time. You can also add spices such as cinnamon (good with apples), mixed spice or even nuts if you like, but I prefer to taste the real flavour of the fruit.

To know more about Greenhouses and using your produce from your greenhouse visit

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