Yes folks, the next week has been dedicated to the lovely Bramley Apple. Seems a bit of an odd time, if you ask me, as it's not the beginning of the season for Bramleys but instead coming to the end of their season - but then, they're available in the shops any old time of year if you're prepared to accept Bramleys from abroad.
Good old English Bramleys are still available in the shops now, though, so make the most of them while you can buy British!
Knowing that Bramley Apple Week was rolling towards us, I was having a bit of a brainstorm with hubby about what we could cook to honour our lovely Bramley. We went through all the usual Apple Cake, Apple Muffins and Pork with Apples ideas but they all seemed so predictable. Nice, but predictable. We wanted something different.
So, we started thinking along the lines of what flavours go particularly well with apples. The first one is the obvious pork. So, what types of pork are there? Loads of types of pork, loads of types of bacon, loads of types of side products from pork. Hmmn. That's not helping much. Okay, so what sort of recipe don't you see very often, that includes pork products and apple? Casseroles? Loads. "In sauce"? Loads. "Chinese?". Quite a few. Italian? Hmmn, not so many. Risotto? ~thinks~ Nope, can't remember seeing any. ~goes to internet to ask Google~ Nope, just one from Jamie Oliver. Aha!
So, risotto. Well, we know that bacon goes well with risotto, so that's a given. What about the apple, though. Hubby was warming to the theme by this time and came up with the ruse that if the apple was diced and pan fried to begin with, then included at the last minute to ensure that it didn't disintegrate, it could work. But what else to put with the bacon and apple? Sage? Well yes, but he didn't want it to go along too herby a route. (Hubby is the Chief Risotto Maker, so the end decision as to the recipe was his). I began to think along sausagey routes and remembered the Black Pudding I'd used for the English Farmhouse Breakfast recently. Done similarly, I felt sure it would stand up to a risotto. Hubby liked the idea and the Bramley Apple, Bacon & Black Pudding Risotto was born.
Now I really, really like risotto - and I really, really like hubby's risottos, as they're always very creamy (without the use of cream), moist and unctuous with some quite complex flavours. This risotto, however, knocked them all into a cocked hat (as we say in the U.K.).
The first forkful immediately gives you that salty hit of the bacon with the background hint of sage. Then, with something of a double-act, the Bramley apple comes in. First sweet, then sour, it gets the music pumping and the stage set for the Black Pudding, whose earthy spiciness just gets that party going on your tongue. And that's just the first forkful.
If you've never experienced black pudding before and have been cautious about doing so, this is the perfect recipe for you. Because of the accompanying flavours, your tongue is allowed to taste the black pudding without it becoming dominant (as it so often can).
Do, please, try this recipe. It really is completely gorgeous.
BRAMLEY APPLE, BACON & BLACK PUDDING RISOTTO (serves 3)
300g Arborio (or another risotto type) rice
30g unsalted butter
125ml white wine
1.2l vegetable or ham stock
30g Parmesan, very finely grated
8 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into small squares
1 large Bramley Apple, skinned, cored and cut into ½cm cubes
4" (yes, four inches) Black Pudding, skinned and cut into ½cm cubes
1 large Banana shallot (or 2 small), very finely chopped
1 tsp fresh Sage, finely chopped.
1. In a large frying pan, fry the bacon pieces until crispy. Set bacon aside on a plate and pour any bacon fat into a large saucepan.
2. Add half of the butter (15g) to the frying pan, turn the heat to high and then fry the apple cubes for no longer than two minutes or until slightly coloured. It is vital to not allow the apples to cook through and dissolve. Remove from the pan and reserve.
3. Immediately - and without cleaning the pan, toss the black pudding cubes into the frying pan and fry for two minutes. Set the black pudding cubes aside and pour any remaining juices from the frying pan into the large saucepan.
4. Add the remaining 15g of butter to the saucepan and gently saute the shallot until soft but not coloured.
5. Turn the heat to high and then add the rice, toasting it in the butter and oils until each grain is well coated and hot.
6. Pour the wine into the pan and stir. Turn the heat down and continue gently stirring until the rice has absorbed the wine.
7. Add the sage and the cooked bacon pieces before pouring a ladleful of stock over the rice. Stir gently until the stock is almost absorbed and then add another ladle of stock.
8. Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time until the rice is tender and 'oozy'. Remember to allow the rice to absorb each ladle of stock before adding the next. This requires patience, but a true risotto cannot be made without following this rule.
9. Once the rice is tender, add the parmesan and the cooked black pudding and continue to cook for another minute or so.
10. Finally, gently stir in the apple cubes and then remove the pan from the heat immediately.
11. Place a lid on the pan and leave it, off of the heat for a couple of minutes, to relax and to allow the flavours to mingle.
12. Serve onto hot plates.