Phil Vickery gets fruity

Kidderminster Shuttle: Phil Vickery gets fruity Phil Vickery gets fruity

Phil Vickery may be the professional cook in the family, but it's Fern Britton who serves up some of the most popular meals in their house. The TV chef tells Keeley Bolger about his wife's famous tats and the Bramley apples campaign he's involved with.

If you lived at the Vickery residence, you'd certainly be spoilt for choice at dinner time.

As well as This Morning chef Phil Vickery's tasty bread and butter puddings (made using his dad's recipe) and apple crumbles, you'd also be treated to his wife Fern Britton's peerless potatoes.

"My wife does a brilliant roast, and the best roast potatoes in the world," says Vickery, 52.

"Even after so many years cooking, I still can't get them like hers."

The TV cook, who is busy writing a cookery book about British game, is currently supporting a Bramley apples campaign, celebrating the juicy British fruit.

Last month, he launched The Great Bramley Bake In, a nationwide search to find the best Bramley apple recipe, with foodies posting their fruity offerings on the Bramley Apple Facebook page.

The winning dish will be decided by public vote, taking place on the social media site from March 14-23.

Vickery may not have his TV presenter wife's knack with spuds, but there's no time for chips on his shoulder in the kitchen when the four children are all at home.

While most of the time, the kids (twins Jack and Henry, and Grace, from Britton's previous marriage, and youngest daughter Winnie) can't be "bothered" to whip up meals for the family, Vickery has noticed that when there is a compelling reason to, they do step up to the plate.

"I think the lads thought it was quite cool to cook for mates and prospective girlfriends," he explains. "The girls are pretty good at cooking."

But the rest of the time, it's him and Britton who take on the bulk of the meals. Not that Vickery minds.

"I went through a stage of not wanting to cook," admits the chef, who says that his dream dinner guests would be Harry Redknapp, Victorian chef Alexis Soyer, Mrs Beeton and Frankie Howerd.

"But now I really enjoy it again. I think all the years of pressured cooking gets you down a bit. Now it's just good fun. Plus cooking on telly is great!"

He says his wife is a "very good cook", and the couple like to keep the atmosphere light in the family's home in Buckinghamshire.

"I like the radio on in the kitchen, so does Fern," says Vickery. "It's all very relaxed and informal, but we do like to be organised and hate rushing."

With the children growing older and the twins at university, the chance for family mealtimes is scarce, but when they can all get together, they like nothing better than a tasty roast with all the trimmings.

"A roast is one of the few meals all the family will eat, so it's perfect," says Vickery. "We try to eat together as much as possible."

If you fancy pulling your nearest and dearest together for a meal, here are three of Vickery's personal favourite Bramley apple recipes, including a succulent fruity roast.

Cider pot-roasted pork belly with Bramley apples and celery

(Serves 4)

750g belly pork in 1 piece, rind removed

2tbsp oil, any will do

1 small glass strong pork or chicken stock

1 small glass dry cider

2 large onions, very finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

A few sage leaves

4 large sticks celery, finely chopped

3 large Bramley apples (550g), peeled, cored and finely chopped

100g chorizo or any spicy sausage, chopped roughly, optional

Salt and pepper

Set the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Season the belly pork well with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the chopped chorizo (if using), melt slightly and then add the garlic. Next, add the belly pork and brown well on both sides. Remove the pork from the pan but leave the chorizo in there.

Add all of the veg, Bramley apples and sage to the pan, and then top with the pork and add the cider and stock. Bring to the boil, then place a lid on the top.

Transfer to the oven and cook for one hour and 30-45 minutes, or until soft and well cooked, but do not overcook.

Afterwards, gently mash the softened veg, apples and juices in the pan and thicken slightly to create a juicy sauce. Serve with the pork.

Lancashire cheese and Bramley apple pie

(Serves 8)

1 x 500g ready-made dessert pastry (rolled out into 2 discs to fit your tin)

5 large Bramley apples (1kg), peeled and roughly chopped, not too small

50g unsalted butter

2tbsp soft brown sugar

Pinch or two of black pepper

1/2tsp cumin

1/2tsp allspice

250g thinly sliced Lancashire cheese

2tsp fresh sage, chopped

1 lightly beaten egg

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.

Heat a saucepan then add the butter and melt. Add the chopped apples, sugar, black pepper and spices, and then cook until the slices begin to soften.

Line a loose-bottomed 24cm pie tin with one of the discs of pastry. Lay the cheese and fresh sage in the base of the dish.

Fill with the thick apple stew and then lightly brush the egg along the lip of the pastry dish.

Top with the other disc of pastry. Trim the edges, crimp them to seal and make a steam hole in centre. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.

Place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until well golden. Cool slightly before serving.

Bramley apple cheesecake

(Serves 8-10)

2-3 large Bramley apples (500g)

100g caster or granulated sugar

100ml water

200g Rich Tea biscuits, crushed

50g melted chocolate, any will do

1 x 397g tin condensed milk

2 x 250g tubs mascarpone cheese

Juice of 3 large lemons (about 100ml)

Dusting of icing sugar

For the Bramley apple and lime syrup topping:

225g granulated or caster sugar

250ml cold water

Approximately 1 medium Bramley apple (150g), finely chopped

Juice and finely grated zest of 3 large limes

Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform tin.

Peel and core the Bramley apples, place in a pan, add the sugar and water and cook until you have a thick pulp, then cool.

Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted chocolate and then lightly press the mixture into the tin to make an even layer. Chill for 20 minutes.

Use an electric whisk to beat the condensed milk with the mascarpone cheese until the mixture is smooth. Add the lemon juice and combine thoroughly.

Spread half the cream mixture onto the biscuit base. Spoon over about half of the apple stew but leave a 3cm gap at the edge.

Top with the remaining cream mixture, covering the edges to seal in the apple stew, then chill for four hours (eight is better, though).

Once chilled, remove from the tin, place on a plate and spoon the rest of the stew into the centre of the cheesecake. Carefully spread out again to 3cm away from the edge and dust heavily with icing sugar.

To make the syrup, place the sugar, water and finely chopped apple into a saucepan and gently cook until you have a soft thin puree. Blitz in a liquidiser for a good five minutes, until you have a velvety smooth puree/sauce. Pass through a fine sieve and cool.

Once cooled, add the lime juice and zest and stir well. Then drizzle over the cake and serve with thick-set cream.

Three of the best... Posh toasters

:: Dualit 4-Slot Polished Toaster, £179.99, Lakeland

The only toaster on the market to offer one, two or four slots, this machine has a mechanical timer and manually operated ejector level, meaning your toast is kept warm once ready. The metallic finish looks super stylish too.

:: KitchenAid Artisan 4-Slice Toaster, £242.99, John Lewis

An auto sensor automatically lowers and lifts the toast, while extra wide slots allow you to toast any type of bread without getting burnt edges. The sleek design also boasts both a bagel and sandwich function, and seven shade settings for your own perfect golden brown. The retro design comes in Empire Red and Medallion Silver.

:: Sage Smart Toast 4-Slice, £129.99, Lakeland

When Heston Blumenthal's involved in the testing and production of a toaster, you know it's going to be good. As well as the one-touch automatic lowering and dual controls, the special features on this model include a 'Quick Look' button, allowing you to check on the toast's colour and, if it's not quite there once the bread pops up, simply press 'A Bit More' and perfection will be yours.

:: Phil Vickery is supporting The Great Bramley Bake In. Vote for the nation's best Bramley apple recipe from March 14-23. Visit www.facebook.com/bramleyapple

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