Being responsible for the diets of each of your family members is no small feat. Not only do you need to take everybody's likes and dislikes into consideration, you must also make sure that it's nutritionally balanced, varied and interesting, all while staying under budget. I think that we deserve free booze at the end of a grocery shop, as a reward for not giving up entirely or ending up in a clock tower with a semi-automatic weapon. Free booze would work better for grocery stores than loyalty cards any day.
For me, one of the things I rarely get right is the quantity or selection of fruit that fills the bowl in the kitchen. If I buy two bunches of bananas, six apples and a kilo of grapes one week, All the apples and two bananas might get eaten, leaving the rest to soften and moulder on the counter.
The next week, two bunches of bananas might be gone in three days, while the apples turn dull and mealy. Oranges might be a hit for three weeks, only to inexplicably fall out of favour the very minute I buy three kilos on sale.
It's enough to drive a girl crazy!
One thing that IS nice about having all this left over fruit is that I can usually cook with it in one way or another. Cakes, sauces, crumbles and even chutneys are often thrown together when I know that they're past their eating best, which I think is sometimes why the guys leave it there in the first place. I mean what teenager wouldn't rather eat a piece of apple or banana cake instead of the whole fruit?
This cake is a very subtly spiced caramel apple upside down cake, with apple in the batter too. The spices are really only enough to enhance the mellow brown sugar flavour, rather than strong enough to really taste them, although if you like very cinnamony or nutmeggy apple, feel free to go crazy!
Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake
Serves 12, Takes 1 hour, 40 minutes +cooling
8 eating apples, like Gala or Braeburn (whichever is local or in season)
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
about 8 cardamom seeds (out of their pods) crushed in a pestle and mortar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1tsp finely grated orange peel (optional if you don't have a fruit bowl full of oranges..)
250g (8.8oz)unsalted butter, softened
250g golden caster sugar
250g self raising flour (or plain flour with 1tsp baking powder)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
Peel, quarter and core 5 of the apples and slice into sorta half-moon shape slices.
Mix the softened butter, spices, orange peel and the pinch of salt together in a large, heat-proof bowl. Toss the apples into this mixture to coat well. I put my bowl into a wok with filled-halfway with boiling water to help melt the sugar, butter and spices well and coat the apples nicely. You don't have to worry about dissolving the sugar, that will happen in the oven.
Tip the apples and sugar mixture into the cake tin and press to make an even layer. If you want to be fancy, you could lay them out in a pretty pattern, but I was making this cake just before midnight, so there was no cussing way I was about to do that.
Peel the remaining 3 apples and grate the flesh off all the way down to the core, then put the grated apple in a colander and set aside for a few minutes while you:
Cream the 250g of butter and the caster sugar together for several minutes until pale and fluffy, then beat the eggs in one at a time, mixing each in well before adding the next.
Squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can from the grated apples, then add them to the butter/sugar/eggs mixture, stirring just enough to combine well.
This mixture will look rather curdled and unattractive, but fear not, it will be fine.
Sift in the flour and baking powder, stir well and then add the vanilla. Don't work the batter more than you need to, as you'll toughen the flour. Tip the batter in over the top of the apples and spread into an even layer, with a bit of a crater in the centre to compensate for rising.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before turning out (unless you want hot brown syrup running everywhere...)
I sprinkled the top with a little coarse cane sugar before I cut it but to be honest, it didn't add anything, so I'd leave it off next time.