Weekly writing challenge: On fire with strudel

Mamma’s Apple Strudel … not a bad effort

Ever had a hankering – no, cancel that – a full-blown yearning for a long-remembered taste?

I’m an avid fan of Masterchef Australia, and at some stage during last week I saw a trailer for an upcoming episode featuring slow roasted lamb ribs. It showed a deliciously juicy-looking pair of ribs – dark brown but not burnt – perched on a mound of mash. Mmmm I thought I might just have to go and check out the website. (We’re several episodes behind in screening here – not  the website!)

I searched the site high and low to no avail – but – I did see a recipe for Gary Mehigan’s Apple strudel. Oh my god – Apple strudel! My father’s absolute favourite. I used to watch Mum rolling the dough and plonking the mixture on top. I’d press my nose against the glass of the oven door inhaling the gorgeous spicey aroma and watching the pastry turn to a flakey golden brown.

My quest for slow roasted lamb ribs came to an end – my memoric taste buds were on fire for STRUDEL.

But I had to find a recipe for the real McCoy…

I went to my trusty old and faded Greta Anna Cookbook. It literally fell open at the strudel page and I read the recipe. Apples, check; brown sugar, check; ground almonds, check; mixed peel, no; filo pastry, no. Damn. Let’s find another recipe … how different could it be after all?

I trawled through a few more books and didn’t like the look of any the recipes on offer. Then I searched through Mum’s old handwritten recipes …in her red-linen covered book which is now falling apart, the pages are yellowed … damn, no strudel. How could she? Someone MUST have stolen the page!

Stupid stupid me … didn’t I just see the recipe online? So I whizzed back to the study, turned on the computer which I had dutifully turned off just a few minutes earlier, turned on the printer and had Gary’s recipe printed out in a flash – minus colour.

Note to self: need to buy more ink cartridges.

Pink lady apples. We don’t have Pink Lady apples in New Zealand. No fresh apples on hand – tinned ones’ll have to do, check; brown sugar, check; almonds, check; fresh breadcrumbs, check; brandy, YES!; raisins, check; lemon rind, check; one portion home made pastry? I was up for the challenge.

I read the pastry instructions once. Then I read them again. A tea towel? Hey, mum used to use a tea towel … if it was good enough for her, it’ll damn well be good enough for me.

I adopted my best Masterchef persona (minus the monogramed apron) and hit the ground running. Measured the flour into the mixing bowl, cracked the egg, heated the milk (overheated the milk), melted the butter, and threw in a dash of salt. I watched as the dough hook hooked the dough, waiting as instructed, until it left the sides of the bowl. Then I put the dough in an oil lined bowl, covered it and left it to rest for the requisite 40 minutes. Timer on.

Oh my goodness, this is so easy. Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver!

I then put all the filling ingredients in a bowl, doused them in brandy and let the flavours absorb while the dough rested, as instructed.

In my Masterchef haste (always watching the clock!) I’d made such a mess that it was then time to clean up and make some room on the bench for the ritual laying on of hands – or the rolling out of the pastry, using the old fashioned tea towel method! Let me read that recipe again.

Flour the bench, roll out the pastry very thinly, roll it up onto a rolling pin, roll it out onto a floured tea towel, plonk the mixture on top, fold in the edges, roll it up …

How hard is that?

Not hard – but messy, very messy. Flour all over the bench, flour on my arms, flour on my black jeans, flour on my shoes … but … after careful, definitely not artful, manipulation – did I mention it had to fit diagonally onto my baking tray? – and a lot of swearing I finally had my strudel folded into a long dog roll ready for transfer to the tray.

Let’s not go there … more swearing!  Suffice to say, it did end up on the oven tray.

I was unconvinced. I was sure this thing was going to burst and as I painted it liberally with melted butter, I lamented my failure.

“It’ll be fine,” said my partner, “stop beating yourself up!”

Into the oven it went, and for the next forty minutes I hovered between watching olympic gymnastics and the oven. I refrained from pressing my nose against the oven door! A familiar aroma wafted through the house.

Much to my immense surprise and delight, the strudel didn’t burn – nor did it burst. And the result – delicious! Magnificent! A triumph!

That was Sunday night.

On Monday night, I watched Gary Mehigan demonstrate making his Apple Strudel.

You know, I didn’t do too badly.

Next time – and yes, there will be a next time – I know how to roll the strudel perfectly and transfer it effortlessly onto an oven tray.

I’ll be able to skip the swearing step.

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