A frugal apple and blackberry pie

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Frugal because the blackberries came from Hampstead Heath and the apples came from my Grandma’s garden (in return for my husband being the only person present tall enough to get the apples from the top of the tree). I would normally make a giant crumble with such a bounty, but man cannot live by crumble alone and so a pie seemed in order.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACoincidentally it was pie week on Bake Off but while they were all having kittens about soggy bottoms, I have bigger things to worry about. Just follow the recipe, innit? And if the pastry on the bottom is not quite as crispy as it could be, don’t worry, you’re going to drown the whole thing in custard anyway.

What seems to help here is briefly precooking the apples and draining away any juice that appears. Since my Grandma’s apples are of superior quality, not much juice came out but this gentle heating is also supposed to do something to the pectin in the apples to help them hold their shape when they’re in the oven.

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Take two and a half pounds of apples. The recipe (from Jane Hornby’s What to Cook and How to Cook It) calls for three and a half but I topped it up with blackberries. There is a mixture of cookers and eaters in there. The cooking apples (Bramleys) are much tarter and collapse when cooked. Next time, I think I would go all eaters, something fairly tart like Braeburns.

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Peel and chop the apples into thick slices. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl and throw the slices in here as you’re chopping to stop them browning. Then cook the apple, with a lid on, over a low heat for 10 minutes, gently flipping every now and again. After ten minutes, tip back into the bowl and add a tablespoon of plain flour (as a thickener) and at least 50g of sugar. Since I had Bramleys, I added a couple of extra tablespoonfuls of sugar, just give it a taste to see. You can add cinnamon as well at this point if you like, about half a teaspoon, although I like my apples unadulterated. Now leave the apple mixture to cool.

Heat the oven to 190°C and place a baking tray in to heat up. Line a 23cm pie dish with pastry. I used pre-rolled shop bought again, don’t judge me. Tip your apple mixture into the lined dish and sprinkle with a good handful, about 150g, of blackberries (they can go in straight from the freezer).

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Brush the edges of the pastry with egg white, place another sheet of pastry over the mound of fruit and seal to the best of your ability. Cut three slashes in the top to let the steam out while its in the oven. If you like (and I do like) cut twee little shapes out of the trimmings of the pastry and glue them to the top with the egg white. Brush the whole pie with more egg white and sprinkle with a tablespoon of Demerara sugar for a sweet, crunchy top.

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Place the pie dish on the pre-heated tray and cook, at 190°C, for 40 minutes. Once done, leave to cool for at least half an hour. The filling will thicken as it cools and make it much easier to slice. This is a hefty pie and will serve eight comfortably (or two people for four nights).

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