A talented cookery writer in her own merit Jane Grigson, née McIntire (1928 – 1990) was born in sleepy Gloucester. She went to Newnham College to read English, this was the second college in Cambridge to admit women in 1868.
Her early career began in the cultural sector, she then met and married Editor Geoffrey Grigson, 23 years her senior (a young bright woman marrying an editor… does that sound familiar Mrs Beeton?) they worked together form many productive years as a very successful partnership.
She became a book translator but it was until her late 30s when she became interested in food and wrote “Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery” in 1967.
With some surprise I learnt that Elizabeth David -no less- was impressed with this book at the point of recommending Jane as a food columnist for The Observer. This little but decisive intervention reshaped Mrs Grigson’s career. The rest is history, her books –alongside with Mrs David’s- became pillars of Britain’s contemporary cookery writing.
This little Penguin book contains 34 recipes collected from four of her eight most recognisable books, they go from pies, to ice creams, fools, cakes, puddings and other delicacies, all carefully selected to represent Jane’s passion for the bold simplicity of seasonal fruits and straightforward ways to make the most of them.
Through the Jane Grigson Trust [ http://www.janegrigsontrust.org.uk ] her legacy continues to forward the preservation of gastronomic heritage through the Annual lecture of the Jane Grigson Trust at the renowned Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery and the Jane Grigson Trust Award.
I was gifted this little book earlier this year during a day trip to Cambridge, since preparing this article is motive enough to cook something from it, I chose a classic: “Apple Dumplings from Anjou” with a note from Mrs David, cant’ ask for more.
The recipe was originally published in “Fruit Book”
Upside-down apple dumplings are made in Anjou with the local variety, the reinette du Mans. You will not find it in this country [Britain]. Use other firm aromatic eating apples instead. Or look out for Ribston pippins which were first grown, it is said, from reinette pips brought from Normandy in 1709.
The original tree at Ribston Hall, Knaresborough, lasted over a hundred years. A shoot from it grew into a tree that was blown over for good in 1928.
Make a plain shorcrust pastry with 500g of flour, butter and lard. You can use a sweet pastry if you prefer it, but I find the plain kind best for fruit pies and dumplings.
Form the dough into a roll, and rest it in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
Peel and core the apples; stuff the cavities with butter and sugar mashed together, or with jam –Elizabeth David suggests plum or quince- which can be given a little extra fire by a judicious spoonful of brandy or other appropriate alcohol.
Place each apple on a square of pastry. Draw up the points and fasten them together on top. Press the edges together as well. You can put a neat circle of moistened pastry over the points if you like. Brush with top of the milk or single cream.
Bake for 30-50 minutes, according to the size of the apples, at gas 6, 200C. Alternatively, lower the heat for 20 minutes and allow extra cooking time.
Test them with a skewer through the central hole. The apple should be tender.
Serve with cream.
You can always make a tart on the dumpling principle.
Line a tin with pastry, put in the stuffed apples close together, cover with pastry and bake as above, allowing extra time.