Autumn fruits

Enjoy the season's apples and pears with these two tasty recipes from Michele Guinness

Many people wax lyrical about autumn - but I have to confess, I'm not a great fan - even with its russet and golden glory readily available to those of us fortunate to live within easy access of the Lake District.  But then I'm not one for goodbyes, and  October very much feels like a tear-stained farewell wave to summer's long and lazy days.  That's SAD for you - not full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, but just enough for me to sympathise with many compatriots whose mood barometer plummets at this time of year.

However, the Jewish sages of old said that a failure to recognise the many blessings right under our noses showed real ingratitude to God.  So however it affects us, let's revel in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - well, maybe not in the mists when we're driving down the motorway, but the mellow fruitfulness certainly has its rewards.  There are apples and pears in abundance, and endless, cheery, comforting ways of serving them up, both sweet and savoury, on those chilly, almost winter evenings. 

As well as being an easy supper dish for family and friends, the savoury sausage and apple turnover is an excellent fallback for a Jacob's Join - possibly for that Harvest Supper.  Ever since Adrian Plass in his famous diary killed off the ubiquitous Christian quiche (it was asking for it), thinking up savoury food to share that isn't a variation on the pizza theme has been a real brain teaser.  But a word of caution - never, never allow it to be served cold.  Whatever the organisers tell you, churches do have cookers, and cold pastry is about as appetising, and probably less tasty, than corrugated cardboard. 

Freezing buildings, cheap biscuits, poisonous coffee and cold sausage rolls - traditional church hospitality can add to our gloom, demonstrating a distinct lack of Christian generosity.  Let's banish our depressing image, and extend a warm welcome as chilly autumn herald's winter's grip. 

Sausage and Apple Turnover

Serves around 4-6

1 sheet ready made puff pastry (425 grams - 2 sheets - in a box)
452g (around 1lb) low fat sausagemeat
I small red onion - chopped finely
1 tart eating apple - chopped finely
salt, pepper and sprinkling dried or fresh sage

Roll the puff pastry sheet, adding around an extra 5cms to the rectangle on all sides.
Mix the sausagemeat with the salt, pepper, sage and chopped onion and spread it over the raw pastry, leaving a border of around 4cms.  Sprinkle the chopped apple over the top. 
Brush the pastry border with cold milk, then fold the shorter sides over the mixture. Pull up the longer sides and nip them  together, or fold one over the other to form a long parcel.  Alternatively, you can make diagonal slashes in the longer sides and overlap the strips to form a plait.
Bake in a hot oven - 200 degrees C, gas mark 6, for around 25-30 mins, until golden and crisp. Some apple juice may leak out - but this adds to the charm.
Can be reheated and re-crisped!

Vegetarian option: substitute the sausagemeat with 400g (14oz) grated cheddar cheese.

Sticky Upside Down Butterscotch Pear Pudding

This is a wonderfully gooey, old fashioned pud. You can replace the pears with Bramley apple slices (use 1) if you prefer.  Serves 6 -8

3 pears, each peeled and divided into four quarters with the core removed
25g (1 oz) melted butter
75g (3 oz) soft brown sugar

(For the pudding)
50g (2 oz) good quality, soft margarine
50g (2 oz) soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
100g (3.5oz) plain or wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
I egg - beaten
Half teaspoon cinnamon
Quarter teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
pinch salt

Melt the butter and mix together with the 75g soft brown sugar. Spread over the base of a deep, (loose-bottom if you have one)  well-greased 18 cm (7 in) round cake tin.  Place pear quarters, radiating out from the centre, on top of the mixture in the tin.  Cut the pears to fit.
Beat together the margarine, brown sugar and golden syrup for the pudding, then stir in all the remaining ingredients and beat till smooth.  Spread over the pears, and bake in a moderate oven, 180 degrees or gas mark 4,  for around 45 minutes, until the pudding is well risen and springy to the touch.
Turn out upside down onto a warm serving dish and serve with custard or low fat creme fraiche.