The cabbages are wonderful right now – purple or green, crinkly leaved or smooth and white. I have been shredding the smoky blue-green savoys, tossing them into a pan of hot oil with matchsticks of ginger, minced chilli, garlic and soy sauce. The red cabbages have been cooked with apple juice, cinnamon and juniper to accompany roast pork, while the tight “drumhead” varieties are steamed and tossed in lemon juice and black pepper.

Many of this season’s cabbages have become salad. The red and tight-leaved white varieties, their leaves shredded into ribbons, are tossed with mayonnaise and sometimes yoghurt, shredded carrots and onion. Better, I think, are those I pickled first – in wine vinegar and sugar – to give the salad a piquancy before dressing. The best of those, with yoghurt, tahini and coriander, was so good it became a dish in its own right, eaten with halloumi.

The other bringer of seasonal joy has been the apples. To be more accurate, baked apples – stuffed with mincemeat or marinated vine fruits, served with custard or maple syrup. A few have been crushed to a purée and served as a fool – the best being those caramelised with sugar and cloves, then folded into whipped cream and proper custard. By which I mean one you have stirred over the heat yourself rather than bought ready-made. If the oven isn’t on, I sizzle the fruit first in sugar and butter, to lend a butterscotch flavour, with which to make a toffee apple fool.

Grilled halloumi with pickled slaw

You need half of the pickled slaw for the halloumi recipe below. It will keep, in a storage jar, in the fridge. Serves 4

For the pickle:
brussels sprouts 100g
red cabbage 300g
white cabbage 250g
white wine vinegar 550ml
granulated or caster sugar 150g
black peppercorns 12
garlic 3 cloves

For the dressing:
natural yoghurt 125g
tahini 2 tbsp
lemon juice of 1, small
coriander leaves 10g
parsley leaves 10g (a handful)
iced water 4 tbsp

For the halloumi:
halloumi 700g
olive oil a little

Trim the brussels sprouts, then slice them into three. Finely shred the red cabbage. Do the same with the white cabbage. Put the sprouts and cabbages in a colander, place over a bowl, then sprinkle generously with salt. Massage the salt well into the shredded leaves and set aside to drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the leaves in your hands and pack into a couple of medium-sized storage jars or a large mixing bowl.

Pour the vinegar into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the sugar, peppercorns and the whole garlic. Add 550ml of water and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, pour the hot liquor over the salted vegetables, toss thoroughly then seal or cover and set aside overnight, or for at least 4 hours. Turn the vegetables occasionally by stirring or shaking the jar.

Cut the halloumi into large pieces about 1cm thick. Brush them with olive oil. Heat a ridged griddle pan, place the halloumi on the hot griddle and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.

Mix together the yoghurt, tahini and lemon juice. Finely chop the coriander and parsley and stir into the sauce. Thin to coating consistency with the iced water.

Put half the slaw in a bowl, drained of its marinade. Add the tahini dressing and toss together.

Serve the slaw with the halloumi, hot from the griddle.

Toffee apple fool

‘Keep a close eye on the fruit’: toffee apple fool.
‘Keep a close eye on the fruit’: toffee apple fool. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Once the sugar has been added, keep a close eye on the fruit. Let the apples colour and caramelise a little here and there – they will smell liked baked apples and take on a pale toffee colour. Serves 6

For the apples:
cooking apples 1kg, peeled and cored
butter 40g
cloves 4
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
caster sugar 100g

For the custard:
double cream 225ml
egg yolks 4
caster sugar 35g

To finish:
double cream 250ml
candied orange peel a little

Chop the apples. Melt the butter in a large, shallow pan – I use a 28cm deep-sided frying pan – add the apples, cloves and cinnamon. Cook over a moderately high heat for 10 minutes, covered, until the fruit can be crushed to a purée. Stir from time to time, letting the apples colour a little. (If they get dry, add 2 tbsp of water.) When the apples are soft, stir in the sugar and watch carefully as it starts to caramelise. Remove from the heat.

Discard the cloves and crush the apple to a purée with a fork, vegetable masher or with a food mixer. Put the apple into a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge. (If you want to cool it quickly, put in a bowl over a larger bowl of ice cubes.) When cool, cover and refrigerate.

To make the custard, pour the cream into a saucepan, then place over a low heat and leave until hot. Do not boil.

Beat the yolks and sugar until thick and pale, then pour in the warm cream. Wash the saucepan and return to the heat, then pour in the custard. Warm gently, stirring almost continuously, until the mixture has thickened a little. Transfer to a bowl using a rubber spatula, then set aside to cool before refrigerating for an hour.

When the custard and apple are cool, whip the cream to soft folds then gently fold with the custard and most of the apple. Serve with a little reserved apple and strips of candied peel.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NigelSlater





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