In the last twenty years many British orchards have either been given over for development or degenerated into disarray with apples being left to rot on trees. I have been told that in Scotland these days there are more than 50 varieties of apples (I am sure it must be higher), including the Bloody Ploughman, Golden Monday, King of the Pippins, Lass O Gowrie, Love Beauty, and Scotch Dumpling. Some of the better-known Scottish varieties are Charles Ross, James Grieve (which I planted on my allotment plot early this year), Laxtons’ Fortune and Ribston Pippin.
On my travels to work, I drive past two apple trees burgeoning with apples. This fills me up with both anger and disappointment. Anger at the waste of such beautiful and edible fruit just going to rot; and disappointment, that I cannot stop and harvest them. Unfortunately both these trees are located where you cannot exactly park, unless of course you have broken down in your car. Then it occurred to me have any Abundance groups been set up in Scotland, such as the one started off by Stephen and a friend in Sheffield, England in 2007. I became aware of Abundance groups when I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls River Cottage last year. Hugh is more than a talented cook. I have been following him since his appearance on TV Dinners. He was also one of the first TV chefs who emphasized seasonality of both fruit and vegetables, whereas other celebrity chefs where just showcasing their skills, techniques and new recipes from their latest book. On this particular episode of River Cottage we were introduced to Stephen and some volunteers, and the principle behind the Abundance project in Sheffield: to harvest the unwanted fruit and redistribute it for free to community groups who find it hard to access fresh local organic food. The benefits of such a project were huge. It benefited those who have too much fruit and those who have none and would love some free fruit. The project also teaches people with new skills such as pruning, these pruning skills ensured the trees provided a better yield of fruit for the future and were free from disease. It builds friendships with people who probably would never had met, working in the open fresh air also has health benefits. Abundance builds on the idea of community. Such a project had my full support. It would have been something I would have happily got involved in, had I not had an allotment and a full-time job. Around this time I decided to check if there was anything similar in Scotland, there was nothing. I also checked a few months ago when I set up my blog and there still was nothing then. Then yesterday I decided to do another search on the Internet for Scottish Abundance groups and guess what hurrah I found one based in Edinburgh. Abundance Edinburgh have done some fabulous work in their short time. Here you will also find a comprehensive guide to identifying apples some grown in Scotland, plus the above image which I have borrowed from the site too (hope they don't mind).
Whilst reading this site I also learned about The Commonwealth Orchard project initiated by a man called John Hancox. We have so many individuals on the ground doing great work with grassroots community groups, encouraging people to get planting heritage varieties and eating local produce, that we should praise them, for both inspiring and reminding us that real food comes Au natural with blemishes; not packaged and GM perfect. Anyway, here is another flapjack recipe with a Scottish twist of shortbread. These flapjacks are a little special, as they are not just good as a snack or for lunch boxes, but also great served warm as a dessert with some vanilla ice-cream. The apple filling is almost like toffee butter.
Cinnamon Apple shortbread flapjacks
4 small Cox’s apples
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon caster sugar
175 unsalted butter
175g plain flour
74g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter
100g porridge oats
65g light muscovado sugar
65g plain flour
Preheat oven gas mark 4.
Prepare the shortbread base: combine the flour and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs then add in sugar, ground almond and stir to combine. Tip into your baking tin (my measured) and work quickly with your fingertips, pres the mixture evenly into the base of the tin. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
In the meantime: Grate the apples discarding the core (I like to keep on the skin, but you can peel it if you wish). Put into a bowl with the lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar and stir. Leave aside.
Prepare the topping: Place the butter and flour together and combine together, then add the oats and sugar and combine until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Spread the grated apple over on the shortbread base, then evenly top with the oat mixture. Press down if necessary. Then bake in the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown. Cool before removing from the tray then cut into slices. Adapted from Ainsley Harriott’s Feel Good Cookbook