SEASON OF MISTS AND MELLOW FRUITFULNESS
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
I try to read all new South African fiction I can lay my hands on, and now have amassed quite a collection; The Smell of Apples by Mark Behr is a book I read several years ago, but as I seem to have a theme going in this post, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you about it now.
The novel covers a relatively short time-span in the last weeks of 1973, and is told by Marcus the 11 year old son of a senior South African army officer. His family are Afrikaners - very much part of the ruling elite - and totally committed to the concept of apartheid, and convinced of their own superiority over other peoples. When a visitor from abroad enters their home things begin to seem different, Marcus begins to become aware of apartheid's twisted logic, and nothing will ever be the same for him. This is a very subtle depiction of a child's introduction to hypocracy, and a piercing indictment of the Afrikaner mentality which underlined the creation of the racist state. The book won the Eugene Marais Prize from the South African Academy of Arts and Science, and it also won the CNA Literary Debut Award; both awards are well deserved.
Every day it seems this bloody government comes up with some new statement about how we should live our lives. I am fed up to the back teeth with it all. Frankly, as long as we are not doing anything illegal and are paying our taxes, it is none of their business how we walk, talk, think, fart, read, work, sleep, drink or clean our teeth.
One of the latest areas of private life into which the Nanny State has decided to meddle is to worry about our body size and what we eat. Ms Caroline Flint - who she you ask? the new Minister for Fitness (did you know we had one of those? neither did I) - has made a statement urging supermarkets to give us all lessons on how to eat fruit and vegetables because "many people find fruit and vegetables scary". Oooh how true, I'm terrified of runner beans, and don't even mention pineapples to me......
For pity's sake, the population know all they want to know about fruit and veg, and what is good for you they don't need to be told by some patronising Nu-Labour bimbo, after all hadn't she ever heard the old English rhyme:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Apple in the morning - Doctor's warning
Roast apple at night - starves the doctor outright
Eat an apple going to bed - knock the doctor on the head
Three each day, seven days a week - ruddy apple, ruddy cheek
Ruddy cheek, I think that sums Ms Flint's comments up nicely.
According to some Fruity PR person, October 21st is 'Apple Day', well I'll go along with that. We eat loads of apples, in fact we have two old apple trees in our postage stamp sized garden here in north London. Sad to say, the few apples they produce are not much cop. I have tried umpteen ways of using them over the years, but have finally given up and leave them to the birds and the squirrels. I do try to buy English apples, there are so many lovely varieties such as Worcester Pearmain, Egremont Russet, the delicious Cox's Orange Pippen and the queen of cooking apples, the Bramley; it is always a joy when they are available rather than the three or four internationally grown varieties stocked by most supermarkets
CHICKEN BREASTS WITH APPLES & THYME
175g onion, finely chopped
2 crisp dessert apples (coxes are ideal), peeled and grated
50g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
40g fresh breadcrumbs (brown or white)
2 level tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme).
Salt and pepper
4 large chicken breasts WITH skin on (approx 700g total weight)
75ml apple juice or cider
4 level teaspoons cornflour
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
Heat half the butter in a pan and sauté the chopped onion until softened, cool.
Add the grated apple and grated cheese to the cooled onion and mix well.
Add the breadcrumbs, thyme and seasoning.
Loosen the skin of the chicken and push the stuffing underneath, pressing into place.
Put the stuffed chicken breasts into a roasting tin and dot with the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper; pour the apple juice/cider over the chicken.
Cook at 190°C for about 50 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the roasting tin and keep warm.
Blend the cornflour with 2 tablespoons cold water and add to the pan together with the stock and the mustard. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, and cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly thickened. Check seasoning. Pour over the chicken breasts.
Serve with green vegetables and creamy mashed potato.
You can prepare this recipe ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, then cook the chicken and make the sauce when you are ready.