Armagh Apple Blossom Festival 2009


Armagh Apple Blossom Festival – Bramley Seedling 200th Anniversary

Happy birthday Bramley Seedling. This year all of us cooks and chefs celebrate the bicentennial of our favourite cooking apple. Bet you didn’t know that it is two hundred years since, as a young girl Mary Anne Brailsford, planted an apple pip in the family’s Nottinghamshire garden. One of those pips emerged as a vigorous seedling around 1809.

A local butcher Matthew Bramley later bought the cottage and garden. His apple tarts must have caused a stir because local nurseryman Henry Merryweather came looking for a cutting from the tree. Matthew agreed, on condition that the slow growing apple would bear his name – hence the name Bramley Seedling – beloved of home cooks and chefs alike. Recently I travelled all the way to Ulster to celebrate with the Bramley Apple Growers who came together to put on a big celebratory bash during apple blossom season, you can’t imagine how lovely it was to drive through the Armagh country side when the orchards were in full bloom covered with pink and white blossom. There were beautiful old trees with gnarled branches, carefully pruned to allow light into the centre, still producing apples after 40 years, but also newly planted orchards to meet the upcoming demands.

Apples have been cultivated in Armagh for more than 3000 years, so the Bramley is just a blow in, in comparison to some of the others. Many of the orchardists are third or fourth generation growers. So the knowledge and growing skills have been passed from generation to generation. In recent years with help and guidance from Loughgall Research Station, apple growers have tweaked the Bramley to ensure that it keeps its shape during cooking for the bakery trade. I was nostalgic for the old Bramley which dissolved into a fluff when stewed or oozed out of its skin when it was roasted or baked. For those of you who are lucky enough to still have these old trees in your garden, prune them carefully and so preserve them well for posterity. Meanwhile one can buy the Armagh Bramley virtually year round, thanks to the efforts of the Armagh Bramley growers who store them carefully and sell them proudly through the length and breadth of Ireland. The growers have helped to highlight the need to protect apple orchards which can only be done by educating young people. Pamela Black and I did several cookery demonstrations with Bramley Seedlings in every recipe. The weather was mostly horrendous yet people poured in to support the Apple Blossom Festival. Nearly 7000 people attended the event which had attractions for growers, suppliers, retailers and there was a strong presence of Armagh Beekeepers Association to highlight the bee crisis. Bees are dying all over the world; some of the causes that have been cited are pesticides particularly those containing the active ingredient Imidacloprid, broadband (the signals are thought to disorientate bees) and GM (Genetically Modified) plants. The jury is still out.

Here are some simple and delicious recipes using Bramley Seedling apples.

Roast Rack of Spring Lamb with Fresh Mint Chutney

Serves 4-6

Many butchers will prepare a rack of lamb for you.

In Season

2 racks of Spring lamb (6 cutlets each)

salt and freshly ground pepper


fresh mint chutney


sprigs of fresh mint

Score the fat. Refrigerate until needed.

Preheat the oven to 220°C\425°F\gas mark 7.

Sprinkle the racks of lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast fat side upwards for 25-30 minutes depending on the age of lamb and degree of doneness required. When cooked, remove lamb to a warm serving dish. Turn off the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving to allow the juices to re distribute evenly through the meat.

Carve the lamb and serve 2-3 cutlets per person depending on size. Serve with fresh mint chutney.

Fresh Mint Chutney (see Fool Proof Food)

Bramley Apple and Sweet Geranium Jelly

Makes 6-7 pots

6 lbs (2.7kg) crab apples or Bramley Seedlings

4 1/3 pints (2.7l) water

6-8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

2 lemons, unwaxed organic


Wash the apples and cut into quarters, no need to peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples in a large saucepan with the geranium leaves, the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx 30 minutes.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan; allow 1 lb (450g) sugar to each pint (600ml/21/2 cups) of juice. Warm the sugar in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for about 10 minutes.

Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan, add a few more geranium leaves if the flavour is still very mild. Bring to the boil and add the sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the geranium leaves. Skim, test and then pour the jelly into sterilized jars, put a sweet geranium leaf in each jar. Cover and seal immediately.

Bramley Apple Tart

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12


8 ozs (225g) butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

12 ozs (300g) white flour, preferably unbleached


1 1/2 lbs (675g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

5 ozs (150g) sugar

2-3 cloves

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Bramley Apple and Elderflower Fool

Serves 4 -5 approx.

1 lb (450g) Bramley Apples

3 – 4 Elderflower heads

4 ozs (110g) sugar

8 fl ozs (250ml) softly whipped cream

Garnish with elderflower heads and leaves

Peel and core the apples, cut into chunks and put into a saucepan. Add the sugar, elderflower heads and water, cover and cook on a gentle heat, stirring every now and then until the apples dissolve into a fluff. Rub through a nylon sieve or liquidise. Bramley apples can be very sour at the beginning of the season, taste and add a little more sugar if it seems too tart.

When cool, fold the softly whipped cream into the apple puree. Garnish with elderflowers.

Notes on Fruit Fools

Rhubarb and blackcurrants are strong in acid, so they must somehow be well diluted. Cooking in stock syrup and then stiffening them again with a little gelatine is one way. Otherwise, one must use a great deal of cream and egg white. The amount of cream used in a fool is up to one’s own taste. I personally do not like them to be too rich.


: Chill all fools for at least 6 hours before serving.Variation

Apple and Elderflower yoghurt

Puree the apple and elderflower as above, substituting the softly whipped cream for 8 fl ozs (250ml) organic natural yoghurt

Roast Apples with Amaretto Cream

Serves 4

4 large Bramley seedling apples

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons golden sultanas

150ml (1/4 pint) water (optional)

150ml (1/4 pint) cream

1 – 2 tablespoons amaretto

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

First core the apples and score the skin across the equator. Mix the butter with the sugar, lemon zest and sultanas. Spoon the butter mixture into the apples. Stand the apples in an ovenproof baking dish and add the water.

Roast for 30 – 45 minutes. The apples should be just beginning to burst – this is vital so hold your nerve, they should look fat and squishy. Meanwhile whip the cream and add amaretto to taste. Serve the apples straight from the oven with the amaretto cream and dust with icing sugar.


Stuff the apples with homemade mincemeat

Stuff the apples with cinnamon sugar

Roast apples unadorned. Proceed as above but omit fruit & zest, serve with freshly whipped cream and soft brown sugar. Divine.

Apple Fudge Cake

Serves 10

My daughter-in-law Penny gave this recipe to my other daughter-in-law Rachel and I am so happy she did.

2 large cooking apples, such as Bramleys

2oz (50g) dark brown sugar

Cake Batter

6oz (175g) butter

6oz (175g) light brown sugar

6oz (175g) self-raising flour

4 eggs

Fudge Sauce

4oz (110g) butter

4oz (110g) light brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

You will also need a 10 inch (25cm) sauté pan or a spring-form tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4

Butter the sides of the tin and line the base with a disc of greaseproof paper. Peel and cut the apples into eights and arrange in a single layer in the tin (this will be the top of the cake when it’s cooked). Sprinkle over the 2oz (50g) dark brown sugar.

Put all the cake batter ingredients into a food processor and whiz to combine. Pour it over the apples and sugar. Cook in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until the cake is spongy in the centre. Wait for it to cool for 2 minutes before turning out.

Next make the fudge sauce. Combine and melt the butter, sugar and lemon juice. Stir and pour over the cake when it’s cool.

Taken from “Rachel’s Favourite Food” by Rachel Allen

Fool Proof Food

Fresh Mint Chutney

This fresh chutney is often served in India with curries. It is good with grilled fish or roast lamb instead of mint sauce. Surprisingly, even though it is uncooked, this chutney will keep for several days in a covered jar or plastic container in the refrigerator.

1 large cooking apple (we use Grenadier or Bramley Seedling), peeled and cored

a large handful of fresh mint leaves, Spearmint or Bowles mint

50g (2oz) onions

20-50g (1-2ozs) castor sugar (depending on tartness of apple)

salt and cayenne pepper

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor, season with salt and a little cayenne pepper.

Thrifty tip

Save and freeze the water you have cooked your vegetables in to add to stocks and soups later – it will contain lots of vitamins and minerals.


Gluten Free Food Festival at O’Connells in Ballsbridge

Rosemary Kearney who is co-author with Darina Allen of Healthy Gluten Free Eating, will be joining the chefs at O’Connells in Ballsbridge, at the Ballsbridge Hotel, Lansdowne Road, Dublin to create a gluten free menu for lunch and dinner on Saturday 23trd May and lunch on Sunday 24th May. To book telephone 01 6655940.

Laying Hens

David Tyrell from Midleton, Co Cork has nine different breeds of laying hens for sale including Aracuanas and Cuckoo Marans (the only eggs that you won’t catch salmonella from because the egg shell does not have pores like other eggs) You can buy them as day old chicks right up to point of lay. Why not pick up a hen house at the same time – he has hen arcs that house six to eight hens that can be moved around small gardens or a stationary house and run for about 20 hens. David advises to get pure bred hens as they are better layers than the hybrid breeds. 087 0655646,

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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