I have written about apples and pears before. It was in 2001 when I came back from working with an organic gardening brigade in Cuba. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was struggling to feed itself because it could no longer import Bulgarian plums (bizarre for an orange growing country!) and other more basic food stuffs. It had unwittingly neglected its own ability to be self sufficient relying as we all do on an endless supply of food from abroad and an endless supply of oil to transport it. Well the oil and the food came to a very abrupt full stop. A salutary lesson.

Since then I’ve been particularly fond of apples and pears because they grow so well in our climate and blow me if all the orchards aren’t disappearing. Lets hear it for CLOG (Calder Local Orchard Group) and other community projects around the country keeping fruit husbandry alive. Fortunately for me, I’ve got a shed full of apple cos my mum lives in Gloucestershire and has got apple trees in her garden. Good year 2013.

Apologies for allowing fruit to sneak in so early into my vegetable blog but I really had to share the proud moment when I made my first SPAT (Sponge Pear & Apple Tatin) – pictured above. I made this recipe up for the occasion of Monday Club (explanation later) and it is a cross between Tarte Tatin and Pear Upside Down Cake. I used a proper Tatin dish which means you can put it on the hob and in the oven. Caramelise the sugar in the Tatin dish and when it browns (care cos seriously hot) put in the peeled and cored pears all nicely arranged. Then add a good layer of peeled apples pieces (mixture of cookers and eaters is good). Then I put on some blobs of mincemeat left over from Xmas and squeezed lemon over to stop it going brown. I was tired then so took it off the heat and left it overnight. Fortunately, I did think to get out a pack of butter from the fridge so it would be at room temp in the morning. Up with the lark, sponge in the Kenwood, ratio of 8: 8: 10 fat, sugar, flour. Blob onto the apples and smooth over with palet knife. Into fan oven for an an hour at 160C. Out of the oven – will it or won’t it? Very large plate over pan (sponge looks brill!) and over we go. Eureka – a moment of sheer joy!

Monday Club is a very alternative kind of OAPs luncheon club. Getting together with people you have known for eons but never get to see unless you nail the occasion. Most folk are retired, semi retired or at least their own boss and normally not a lot happens on Mondays. I adore cooking for Monday Club. We meet monthly rotating people’s houses and we only have to cook one thing – hence my Piece de Resistance.

This Monday, being as it it’s NewYear, New Me. New Diet time we got talking about losing weight for health and happiness. A couple of people have started the 5:2 diet and their version sounded really strict and a bit unsustainable in the longer term. But I remember seeing a programme on the telly where the guy did it differently and guess what he changed from an apple into a pear! But the pros and cons, trials and tribulations of changing shape/losing weight is definitely for another time …..