If you’re not from England, you may think the combination of cheese and apples sounds ghastly. Especially in the absence of a sweet, shortcrust pastry! When I first saw a similar pie being made on the telly years ago, it intrigued me so much I knew for sure I’d make it one day. It took a round of Olympic Games based in London for me to “think British” and make my own version of Tamasin Day Lewis’ pie. I miss her cooking shows on free-to-air tv. I’m not sure if pay tv poached her? But no matter what the recipe, Tamasin’s long, thick (somewhat bushy/hippy) dark brown hair always hung unbridled to almost waist-level (it made me wonder if any of her hair ever fell into the food). Tamasin is the sister of Daniel Day Lewis, the actor. But she is the star in my eyes. From taping a cooking series in a tiny cottage kitchen that I wouldn’t fry an egg in, to a custom built dream kitchen with grass-green Kitchenaid mixer, a stove the size of a small car and a wooden kitchen island bench complete with built-in marble slab.. for rolling pastry of course. It was a new, unfinished house last time I saw it and those episodes featured Tamasin drip-feeding the pension-aged (simple-eating?) workmen on site with various (and glorious) cooked treats. I often felt pangs of angst wondering things like ‘will they fully appreciate that it’s aldente’?
So the Olympics are over, George Michael & the Spice Girls have sung and here is my culinary ode to the games. Cheese and apples! You might gasp. But it somehow works in this pie. It was the Brits after all who introduced us Aussie lot to pasties and pies. I ate a Cornish pastie at Sovereign Hill (Ballarat) a few years ago which had different fillings at each end of the pastie. On one side it was your traditional pastie filling and the other end had apples! The idea seemed crazy, but yeah.. it worked! That was a gorgeous pastie.
My two top tips for this recipe would be: 1. Go to the trouble of making the shortcrust thyme pastry, it really isn’t as fiddly or as time consuming as it seems. 2. Find Cheshire Cheese in the continental cheese section of your supermarket. Not where bags of grated tasty cheeses are, but where French Boursin, Tasmanian Ashgrove & King Island cheddar live. Cheshire cheese feels firm to touch and crumbles into odd shaped pebbles like feta. Having said that, never use feta! My local supermarket used to stock Ashgrove’s ‘Lancashire’ cheese which is what Tamasin uses. If you can find it, use it. Just don’t use a melting cheese. Cheshire and Lancashire cheeses belong in the same family.. they crumble.. they’re not sharp or salty and they’re more white in appearance (and not yellow).
Tamasin put two onions in her pie, I’ve left them out and I’ve also added some traditional apple pie spices and a bit of maple syrup sweetner.
If you like homemade apple pie, then this pie won’t be a stretch for you. My fussy teen loved it. Cheshire Cheese & Apple Pie. Quirky by name only.
Cheshire Cheese & Apple PieServes 6-8
*Granny Smith Apples x 7 large, peeled, cored, chopped in half and cut into slices.
*Cheshire Cheese (from England) x 150grams. Substitute with Lancashire cheese or another hard, crumbly cheese (not feta).
*Thyme x 1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried (fresh is better)
*Maple syrup x 1/2 cup (I used real organic, not artificial)
*Cinnamon, ground x 2 pinches
*Nutmeg, ground x 1 pinch
*Butter x 1 tablespoon
*Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Shortcrust Thyme Pastry
*Plain flour x 2 cups
*Unsalted butter x 120 grams
*Thyme leaves x 1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried (fresh is best)
*Chilled (or iced) water x 4 tablespoons
*Salt x 1 pinch
*Egg yolk x 1 (for brushing pastry lid)
-Make pastry by using your fingertips to rub butter into flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
-Add thyme and salt, mix through well.
-You won’t have a sticky mess making this pastry if you follow this method. Add the chilled water 1 tablespoon at a time to the flour, stirring the water in with a butter knife. You’ll see the mixture will appear to form ‘pebbles’ which will increase in size and quantity. After the fourth tablespoon and knife-stir, use your hands to form a dough, which will only take seconds. The bowl and your hands should remain relatively clean. Divide the dough into two ‘stone-like discs’ as opposed to round balls.. it’s better if they’re more flat. Make one disc slightly larger than the other. The larger disc will be your pie base and the smaller one will be rolled out to make your pie lid. Cover each disc with plastic food wrap and refrigerate dough while you get on with the remainder of the recipe.
-Prehet oven to 220 degrees celcius.
-Melt butter in a large pan, add apples, stir to coat in butter and saute for around 5 minutes before adding maple syrup, ground cinnamon and cloves.
-Stir spiced apple mixture every 2 to 3 minutes until apples are no longer crispy in texture, but not overly soft either. They should still hold their form. Around 8-10 minutes in the maple syrup mixture over the stove should be sufficient.
-Put cooked apple mixture into a bowl and crumble over Cheshire cheese which will look like lumps in various sizes. Stir-through well, taking care not to mash the apples.
-Spread apple mixture onto a large, cold plate so cools down quickly.
-After pastry has been in the fridge 30 minutes, roll out larger disc on a clean, dry surface (I didn’t flour my surface). Roll pastry evenly keeping the shape of your pie dish. You want the pastry to appear larger than the base of your dish. The pastry will be quite thin, but not transparent and it won’t break easily either. Carefully line a 20-25cm based pie dish with pastry (I quickly sprayed the base with some rice bran oil first).
-Once pastry base has been nicely moulded into pie dish, (hopefully with extra pastry hanging over the edge so you can use it to seal the lid)… pour cooled apple mixture onto the pastry base and smooth out evenly with the back of a spoon.
-Roll out your pie lid with remaining piece of dough and cover apples, then pinch the lid and pastry base together to seal the pie (so there are no visible holes)
-With a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, snip or cut a little cross in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape during the baking process.
-Brush pie with egg yolk & put in hot oven. Allow to bake at 220 degrees for 10-15 minutes, then reduce heat to 180 degrees and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until a deep golden colour and pastry is cooked.
-Serve warm or cold on its own or add a good dusting of icing sugar. I like it with icing sugar, because the crust isn’t sweet, but other members of my family prefer it without the sugar. Traditionally this pie isn’t served with cream or icecream. We didn’t think it needed it because of the cheese.