A quick trip to your nearest veggie store will show you that apples are very much in season at the moment. This means that they are not just great value but are also at their absolute best. So bearing in mind that it’s autumn and we’re starting to crave comfort foods, why not bake an apple pie with custard or – to be more upmarket – Apple Tarte Tatin with Crème Anglaise? To be honest they are practically the same thing.

Most cultures have their own recipe for apple pie. However the French version, Tarte Tatin, is recognised as one of the best and incidentally one of the easiest. Like many pieces of culinary genius, the Tarte Tatin was discovered quite by accident. During the late 1800’s Stephanie Tatin overcooked the apples for a traditional apple pie and, not wanting to waste them, she tried to save the dish by pressing a disc of pastry on top of the apples and popping it in the oven. She then turned it out on to a plate, creating a sort of upside down tart in the process (except that it is now the right way up, of course).

To her amazement the guests at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, raved about the new dish, with its topping of buttery, caramelised apples. The recipe soon became well known in the region. But to achieve greatness, it needed another slice of luck in the form of Louis Vaudable, the legendary owner of Maxims Restaurant in Paris, who was served a slice as he passed through the area. He loved it and immediately added it to his own menu in Paris and what’s more Tarte Tatin is still on Maxims menu today.

Food history is littered with examples of mistakes leading to discoveries of recipe greatness. Usually it’s the need to use everything or sometimes, like the Lamington, it’s just a lack of time to repair the mistake…but that’s a story for another day!

Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Sauce

It’s really cool to bring this out of the oven and turn it over just as everyone finishes their main course. As you can tell from the timings, that means make it in advance but only cook it when you start eating the main course.

Serves 6

6 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and halved

120g butter

200g sugar

sprig of fresh thyme

250g puff pastry

Pinch flour

1. Evenly grease the base of the frying pan with the butter, cover with the sugar and then arrange the apples, rounded side down, on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the picked leaves of fresh thyme.

2. Lay the puff pastry over the apples and rest for at least 20 minutes.

3. Set the pan over a high heat and caramelise the appless, then cook in a preheated oven at 220˚C for 20 minutes.

4. When cooked, immediately turn over onto a plate and serve with mascarpone cream or vanilla sauce.

Vanilla Sauce

Serves 10

6 egg yolks

120g caster sugar

500ml cream

2 vanilla pods, split

1. Boil cream with vanilla in a saucepan.

2. Meanwhile boil a second pan half filled with water.

3. Mix eggs and sugar until pale and then add boiled cream very slowly.

4. Mix well and place over a pan of boiling water, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens.

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