Before we begin, a quick clarification for our non-British readers. Your cider is not our cider. Your cider is merely jumped-up apple juice; ours is furiously alcoholic: lovely, delicious booze that’s just as good served over ice in the summer as it is heated and spiced in the winter. But let’s say you want to cook with cider – what are your options there? I’m glad you asked.
Most recipes that involve cooking with cider are autumnal in nature. Nevertheless, British summers are nearly always plagued by a stretch of chilly, even rainy days, and with this in mind here’s Felicity Cloake’s recipe for french onion soup. At the time, her use of cider (rather than wine) kicked up a big old stink in the comments. But this is a Normandy onion soup recipe, and it’s how Michel Roux made his, so hush.
Next up is a Hunter’s pie courtesy of Merlin Labron-Johnson. Like the onion soup, this pie isn’t a typical summer treat – it’s so loaded with game, root vegetables and cream that just the sight of it might bring on a nasty case of heatstroke – but there are always workarounds. Labron-Johnson recommends serving the pie hot with a salad, but to my mind nothing sounds better than chilling it and serving it in slices at a picnic.
Luckily, Nigel Slater’s recipe for red cabbage with cider and steamed potatoes is a comparative burst of sunshine. As Slater says, this recipe is very cheap to make, and it counts as a hot salad. Would recommend.
This cider-focused Recipe Swap article from 2015 offers an embarrassment of riches, with dishes involving salmon, bread, cheese and onions. But let’s home in on Bryony Timms’ recipe for pearl barley “risotto” with ham and cider. Pearl barley instead of rice and cider instead of wine makes this an enjoyably homegrown take on a classic. “Sorry, Italy,” says Bryony.
Although Merlin’s Hunter’s pie suggests using rabbit as an alternative to chicken, Louise Robinson’s rabbit and cider casserole puts the bunny upfront. And, good lord, it is tremendous. The cider is beefed up with the assistance of apples; the rabbit helped out with bacon and tarragon. I don’t know about anyone else, but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to up and move to Normandy.
That is unless they don’t have scotch eggs in Normandy. Because only a fool would ever give those up. Food Network’s cider and black pudding scotch egg is, by all accounts, a stunner. If it wasn’t enough that it contains black pudding, it also contains cider-soaked breadcrumbs. Tremendous.
A word of warning. If you ever try to find a pudding to make with cider, prepare to clatter into an insurmountable wall of apple and cider cake recipes. There are millions of them, but I’m going with Delia’s version, simply because I trust her the most. By itself, full to bursting with cider-soaked apple and raisins, this cake is a treat. But Delia’s masterstroke is giving it a crumble topping. Try to dislike this cake, I dare you.
But if that isn’t decadent enough, there is also Delicious magazine’s mulled cider trifle: sponge fingers soaked in mulled cider jelly, mulled apples, mulled cider syllabub and custard. Forget that it’s summer, and that this is like something you should probably be eating out of a paper cup at a Christmas market. Because it really is delightful.
And now that you’ve forgotten about summer, let me introduce you to James Martin’s parkin recipe. Traditionally eaten on Bonfire Night – which is obviously still quite far off – parkin remains a worthwhile thing to make now. Martin’s recipe is light on the cider, using just a couple of tablespoons for the syrup you drizzle over it, but it was either this or another apple and cider cake recipe.
Finally, let’s return to Normandy for some baked apples. Done right, there is no greater dessert on Earth than the baked apple. And, in this instance, done right involves baking the apples in a pool of cider. If you’re feeling fancy, you can use a slice of brioche to soak up all the juices.