In my first year at Uni I lodged in a bungalow on Prospect Rd. Portstewart, with an elderly lady called Mary Kane. Now Mrs K was a kindly soul but her driving would put the fear of God into anyone unfortunate enough to accept a lift in her old Morry Thou. Her budgie had been taught to say He knows, He loves, He cares and she made Apple Tart to die for! In fact she had a letter (I saw it with my own eyes) from singer Kathleen Ferrier, who had taken passage (I think to New York) on the merchant vessel captained by Mr Kane, specifically mentioning her Apple Tart as the best she’d ever tasted.

Now the secret of Mrs. K’s Apple Tart lies in the pastry! It is so thin and crispy that it beats all other pastry crusts hands down. But there are several layers of secrets to this tasty tart and I think I am the only person Mrs Kane ever taught to make it and I wouldn’t want this recipe to go silently into that good night so I am going to share it here. It’s not difficut but there are a few TIPS to it and I am including them all. Try it, and if you like the result (and you will), share it with others. It’s not mine — it’s Mrs Kanes and she deserves to be remembered for it and I will never forget her. This time of year especially, I always think of her kindness to a girl just left home.

  1. Keep everything COLD: If you haven’t a processor (she used her finger tips only) then make sure the (mixing bowl is cold, the butter (no margerine please!) is cold, your hands are cold, the flour, the milk, the board (a marble or granite surface is best for rolling pastry) C O L D

2. You will need to make the pastry first. The ratio is what makes this pastry special. Most pastry is half fat. This is greater, The ratio is 5oz plain flour sifted twice!! (even if using a processor, sift the flour) (do not use self raising — it’s supposed to be thin). 3oz cold butter (I use Kerry Gold Irish butter) 1oz caster/fine sugar (make sure there are no lumps in that either).A couple of tablespoons cold milk. I am sorry I can’t be more specific than that. The thing is to add it slowly so that the pastry is JUST moist enough to hold together (not wet).

Method: Cut the butter up and using your finger tips rub into the flour until it ressembles bread crumbs. Do this lightly so as not to overwork the pastry. Then add the sugar and stir. Then add the milk a little at a time, stirring each little in using a knife, until the pastry will form a ball. OR Place the flour, sugar and cubed butter in the food processor and ZIZZ. Then add the milk still a bit at a time as you ZIZZ.

Put the ball of pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

You’re going to need an 8 inch diameter metal pie dish with sloping sides and a rim (SEE PIC). If you chill this too, it helps keep the bottom crust cold while you’re filling it. It’s tempting to think that there’s not enough pastry from 5oz flour but trust me, it rolls out so well you’ll be amazed!

So when the pastry has rested, cut it in half and put one half back in the fridge. Roll the other half to the size of your dish (do it by quarter turns rolling in one direction, truning, rolling, turning, rolling… ) Flop it over the rolling pin to lift it to the dish. It should be slightly bigger than the dish. Now here’s a TIP to prevent a soggy bottom in any pie or quiche. Sprinkle a handful of couscous onto the pie crust!

Now preheat the oven to 170C

3 large or 4 medium BRAMLEY APPLES. The type of apple does matter because bramleys are tart and they cook down well and keep a slight acidity even with the sugar. If you can’t get Bramleys at least use a cooking variety and not eating apples because they retain their texture too well.

One at a time, peel the apples and slice them thinly discarding the cores (or you can use these to in jam to make pectin). Place the slices in a spiral overlapping pattern on the pastry base. After each layer, sprinkle 1 tbs fine sugar and a little ground cloves or cinnamon. (Mrs K always used cloves but this is a matter of taste.) Continue until all the appples are layered nicely with sugar and spice. Roll out the other half of the pastry, dampen the edges of the bottom with a little water or milk, place the top on and press the edges down. Lift the pie and trim the excess pastry with the blunt end if a knife. You can use the trimmings to make a decoration for the top like I did here.

Place the pie in the oven on a baking tray (in case of juice). The pie needs 55 mins to cook. It should look quite brown round the edges. When ready, sprinkle with a little more sugar and serve hot or cold with fresh cream or clotted cream. It serves 8 portions or 6 large portions or four extra large greedy portions — or you can try hiding it and eating it all yourself! But I think someone will sniff it out because it’s delicious!!!

I never said this was a health food!

Can you make it with sweetner? I’ve never tried. Maybe, if you really need to do that, you can let us know!

Enjoy and please SHARE.