Author James Rich may well have cider running through his veins. The son of a Somerset cider-maker, he grew up with apple orchards as his playground and was lucky enough to have a grandmother who was a keen cook; she encouraged his interest in food from a young age.
Rich’s debut book evokes the glory of the English countryside, although I’d like to have read more about the history of apples and cider in the West Country or heard more about the sights and sounds of an apple harvest in full flow.
How good are the recipes?
The most appealing make the most of West Country flavours – chicken, cider and cheddar crumble; poached apples and cider brandy sauce – and I have my eye on a warming rabbit and cider stew for when autumn’s crispness comes.
For now I chose something more summery to road-test: sweet and sticky pork ribs with apple wedges (I could imagine these being barbecued) made with apple juice, apple syrup and cider vinegar, and roasted with granny smiths.
The ribs are first poached in a spicy liquid, then roasted with a sweet/tangy sauce. I found it took longer than the stated 15 minutes to chop onions, grate garlic, and peel and core apples. After the 70-minute roasting time the ribs weren’t as soft as I wanted, either. With an extra 20 minutes, plus some additional basting, they did deliver the sweet-sour, tender meatiness I was after.
Next up, toffee apple cake. Spiced with cinnamon and ginger and crowned with apple slices, it was made especially moreish by the treacley toffee sauce served with it.
When time allows, I’m going to tackle apple cider vinegar, made from apple cores and peelings, sugar and the magic of fermentation over the space of four weeks.
Do the pictures draw you in?
Photography by Jacqui Melville conjures up summery countryside bordering on the Edenic – apple trees weighed down with ripe red fruit and outdoor tables groaning with platefuls of cakes, cheeses and appley delicacies. Recipe photos are clean, simple and sunlit, although not all the recipes are accompanied by photos.
Who’s the book suitable for?
Recipes run the gamut from salads and soups to casseroles and stews, not to mention cocktails and some fine-looking preserves, so there’s something for everyone, and the recipes are achievable. Helps if you like apples, obvs.