Spiced Baked Apples

Grandpa Ish or "Bacca" is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who owned highly regarded and reviewed restaurants in California in the 80s and 90s (and naturally that's why I married into the family ;) ). Dad is retired now but his imagination and culinary creativity are very much alive. On a recent visit to Hong Kong, he made these gorgeous spiced baked apples for an easy weeknight dessert and both son and grandson were floored. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, these beauties will give any ol' Apple Pie a run for its money. 

Science Corner
Cinnamon helps stabilise blood sugar so I literally throw it in everything, especially sugary treats. It lends a comforting and warming spiced aroma and flavour to anything from porridge to baked apples to chicken stews and even soups like our Moroccan Lentil Soup here. Cardamom is a luxurious, floral and peppery spice with umpteen health benefits previously discussed here. And of course, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

1 apple good for baking like Golden Delicious
1/2 teaspoon coconut or brown sugar
3-5 large golden raisins
3-5 dried cranberries
2 cloves cardamom
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon preferably Ceylon
1 small square slice butter
Boiling water

Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.

Core and de-seed the apple with a sharp paring knife, a peeler with a pointed edge or an apple corer if you have one, creating a hollow about an inch in diameter. Be sure to leave a good amount of flesh at the bottom to hold the filling.  Sprinkle the bottom of the apple with the sugar and fill the hollow with the raisins, cranberries and smashed cardamom cloves. Drizzle the maple syrup on top and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the square of butter on the apple. 

Place the stuffed apple in an oven proof dish containing 2 inches of boiling water. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes until the bottom of the apple is fork tender. Serve with vanilla ice-cream or as is for a nutritious, delicious and decadent tasting dessert. 


Potato Leek Soup

In 'Don't snub the spud! Why the humble potato is a kid superfood', I share nutrition-based reasons why the potato is such a great option for the family table, especially for kids. This simple recipe celebrates the spud in all its starchy, satiating glory. 

Nothing screams cozy comfort classic like potato leek soup. I jazzed it up with white pepper - the seed of the matured black peppercorn minus the outer layer - and the results are delicious. A little goes a long way with white pepper so be careful. It gives more bite while also being more subtle than black pepper, perfect for the delicate flavours of this simple soup. We make this about once every two weeks and serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich or chicken strips and a side of veg - dip dip! 

A note on choosing potatoes
When picking potatoes, pay attention to the starch content. Starchier potatoes like Russets are great for baking, frying and also mashing as long as you don't overwork them. Less starchy New Potatoes are better where they have to hold their shape like in salads and stews. The Yukon Gold is a medium starch all purpose potato that works in many settings. 

4 toddler servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 leeks, white and light green parts chopped
4 potatoes peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

In a large pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil over medium until shimmering but not smoking. Add the leeks and sautee until translucent about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and sautee for a minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are softened, about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste and the white pepper. Allow the soup to cool and blend. Add the butter and stir well. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Skip the salt and offer it to babies for a delicious, creamy and hearty meal. 

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