Autumn is in the words of John Keats truly `the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ I love the rich colours of Autumn – deep red rosy apples and berries, vibrant orange pumpkins and squashes and not forgetting sunny yellow sunflowers. I had fun making this Autumnal still-life. The Daisy Chain Purse Vase is an Anita Harris design and was a wonderful wedding gift. I love it’s rich deep red lustre with the gold embellished daisies. The vibrant flowers include dahlias and sunflowers freshly picked from our garden. The cup and saucer were a wonderful find. They are Early Derby London shaped with gold rims and handle dating from the 1800s. The pattern is the much loved Derby Traditional Imari Pattern 2451. This pattern was made over many years and is still in production today. It uses the traditional Imari colours of deep red, cobalt and gold and includes diamond lozenges and stylised floral motifs. The tea plate also has an Imari pattern. However the plate is later dating from the 1880s with a makers mark of Taylor & Kent (Ltd).
When I think of Autumn, pumpkins and squash immediately come to mind. I am fascinated by the patterns on squash and painted this Autumnal still-life this week. I wanted to convey the structure and patterning of the fruit, whilst enjoying mixing the beautiful vibrant yellows and oranges.The striped fruit are Harlequin Squash and the deep orange one is a Kabocha Squash. Harlequin Squash are recommended by the RHS to be an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. I haven’t grown any pumpkins or squash this year but will definately grow some next year to brighten up my vegetable beds. I included an old English Egremont Russet Apple with distinctive russet bronze fruits and some Autumnal leaves in my still life.
October is a lovely month for celebrating the humble apple. Apples have been harvested in temperate Europe since prehistory. Downing’s Fruits, printed in 1866, has 643 varieties listed. Now we have over 5000 named apples. The oldest known variety of apple is `Court Pendu Plat‘ which may go back to Roman times and is recorded from the sixteenth century. Raised in 1850 Cox’s Orange Pippin is one of the best dessert apples. However it is difficult to grow as it is disease prone and hates wet clay. It does best on a warm wall. `Beauty of Bath‘ was introduced in 1864 and fruits in late Summer with small sweet juicy yellow fruits stained scarlet and orange. Egremont Russet was bred in 1872 and has roughened greeny bronze skin with a crisp and firm flesh.
I wanted to paint something Autumnal so chose a selection of apples from my local supermarket to paint in watercolour. I managed to find 5 different varieties all with different hues of red and green. I placed the green Granny Smith in the middle to give the painting some balance. I would have liked a Russet, but there weren’t any available in the shops. Russets have quite a rough, unshiny texture which may have made more of a contrast in my painting. All my apples had quite a shine on them so I aimed to create shine as well as celebrate the different red hues. I really enjoyed painting my apples. I think I managed to use nearly all the reds in my paintbox! I used Scarlet Lake, Winsor Red, Permanent Carmine, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Brown Madder and Quinacridone Red. I included a useful guide to red pigments in my previous Ruby Red Bouquet Blog Post.
Quinacridone Red was great for the Pink Lady apple as it is a good vibrant pinkish red. The small Estivale apple needed a bright red so I used Scarlet Lake. Royal Gala is stripey and a deep almost maroon colour in places and more orangey in the highlights. I used Permanent Alizarin Crimson with a tough of Paynes Gray to darken it. On first glance the Cox and Royal Gala are both dark red apples. However they aren’t the same hue on closer observation. Royal Gala is more maroon or burgundy and the Cox is more orangey rusty red. I chose to use Brown Madder to create the main colour of the Cox with touches of Permanent Alizarin Crimson in the shadow.
Having made a close observational painting of my apples I was in the mood for cooking with apples. Mr Smiles had a birthday so I made some Apple and Oat Muffins in addition to a Birthday Cake.
Apple and Oat Muffins
My recipe for Apple and Oat Muffins was taken from `The Great British Bake Off Everyday Cookbook’. I have never made muffins before and I would highly recommend having a go, as this recipe is quick and easy.
For the topping
50g porridge oats
50g demerara sugar
50g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the base
250g plain flour
25g porridge oats
175g caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
finely grated zest of 1 medium unwaxed lemon
150g unsalted butter, diced
2 medium eggs, at room temperature
100ml milk, at room temperature
1 large eating apple, cored and cut into small pieces
Heat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Make the crumble topping first. Put the oats, sugar and flour into a mixing bowl and combine with your hand.
Cut the butter into pieces, add to the bowl and rub into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.Then gently squeeze the mixture together until it forms pea-like clumps. Set aside until needed. ( I must admit I found it hard to make small pea size clumps. Mine were more like broad bean clumps).
Now make the base. Put the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest into a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Gently melt the butter in a small pan. Leave to cool. Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl with a fork until just combined. Add the melted butter and milk mixture to the flour mix in the bowl and stir gently until just combined. There’s no need to beat the mixture.
Spoon the mixture into 12 paper cases in the muffin tray so they are evenly filled. Top each with an equal amount of chopped apple and gently press the pieces into the muffin mixture. (they should remain visible). Cover with the crumble topping, dividing it equally among the muffins, and gently press down on the base.
Place in the heated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and just firm when gently pressed in the centre. Set the tray on a wire rack and cool for 3-4 minutes. Carefully lift the muffins out of the tray onto the rack. They are best served warm the same or next day.
The apple and oat muffins went down well. I think they would be great served with lashings of cream or custard!