James Rich's credentials for writing a book about one of the nation's most popular fruits are strong. He is the son of a cider maker who grew up in Somerset, the heart of apple-growing territory. He spent his formative years helping family members plant trees, pick fruit and press juice ready for the fermenting process.
As he says: "What my family doesn't know about the famous apple, quite simply, isn't worth knowing." Rich, who now divides his time between Somerset and London working as a food writer, certainly puts his knowledge to good use. Alongside a brief introduction on the history of the apple, he explains the qualities of the most popular cooking and eating types among the 2,500 varieties grown in the UK.
Then it is onto the recipes and, being one of the most versatile fruits available, these span a host of savoury and sweet, cold and hot dishes, covering everything from breakfast ideas to dishes fit for a feast. A host of impressive drinks, many stemming from Rich's family history, include the enticing-sounding Uncle Mike's cider punch (comprising dark rum and ginger beer as well as cider), which he says should carry "a polite advisory note" for the "rosy cheeks, warm hearts, and a rather quiet and subdued morning after" that it engenders.
Cider, of course, provides the perfect partner to pork and here it is used as the braising liquor for a knuckle, with slowly cooked onions and Braeburn or Cox's apple mashed into the sauce. It is also combined with grain mustard, crème fraîche and juniper berries in a slow-cooked dish of pork shoulder. Rabbit, chicken and turkey are also shown to work equally well.
Unsurprisingly, the number of desserts and cakes included are plentiful, with several variations on the ubiquitous pies and crumbles, as well as the more challenging, such as apples poached in cider brandy sauce, spiced with ginger or cinnamon, and a layered autumn pavlova with apple and vanilla cream.
Extremely useful throughout are the specific apple varieties suggested as the best for each recipe. Rich is clearly a man who knows his apples.
• Apple by James Rich (Hardie Grant, £20). Try out the recipe for rose de pommes tart from the book here
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