Tudor Roasted Apples

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It's interesting that, when many of us think of Tudor and Medieval food, we think it's bland and unexciting. 

In fact, Tudors used a wide range of spices including ginger, caraway, aniseed and fennel to flavour their food, even using sweeter spices such as cinnamon and saffron to flavour meaty stews and pies. 

After a visit to Hampton Court Palace Kitchens last year, I became interested in recreating many of these Medieval and Tudor recipes, to taste them for myself. I consulted the late-Elizabethan texts of The Gode Huswife (1596-7), and The Forme of Cury (1390). I also found a fascinating and modern book: All The King's Cooks by Peter Brears. It details the way Henry's Hampton Court Kitchens worked and the kind of recipes served there. 

The Tudors seemed to have a thing for apples - but cooked, not raw. As the writer John Gerard advises in the late 1500s, apples were beneficial for the digestion, inflammation and also the skin. But he tells us that they were usually cooked before being enjoyed: "Rosted Apples are alwaies better than the raw, the harme whereof is both mended by the fire, and may also be corrected by adding unto them seeds or spices." (1)

I've used modern, Pink Lady apples because they provide firmness and sweetness - but you could also use Bramley apples, the traditional apple for roasting. However they're not Tudor, having been developed in the nineteenth century. Neither are Pink Lady. Basically if you have any seasonal apples starting to wrinkle in the fruit bowl you might want to plan this for dessert. 

These roasted apples took 45 minutes to make from scratch with minimal effort and we ended up with them burnished on the outside and meltingly soft in the centre. They're easy to make, too. 

Quick note: You'll want to grab a copy of All The King's Cooks - in there, there's a roasted apple recipe that includes comfits - seeds coated in a hardened sugar syrup. 

My recipe below is how I was taught to make them at home, and skips Brear's comfit making altogether. I've taken a cue from John Gerard though, tumbling warm, fragrant spices over the apples after baking. Roasted apples cooked in this way are definitely one of the comfort foods I remember from when I was little. A comfort food of the ages. 

You'll find aniseed, sweet, fruity and treacly flavours all here, and they're all totally delicious. 

Tudor Roasted Apples
Makes 4
4 Pink Lady eating apples
half teaspoon each of fennel seeds and caraway seeds

Wash the apples and score the skin, horizontally. Place them into an oven-proof dish and bake at 200ÂșC for around 40 minutes, until softened. When done, take them out and leave to cool slightly. 

Add the seeds to a non-stick frying pan and heat gently just for a few seconds, to start to release their flavours. Swirl around so they don't burn, and when fragrant, scatter them over the cooked apples. 

Serve warm. 

Interested in the very dawn of the Tudor age? I explore a number of women who lived during the fifteenth century in my book Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses, published by Pen and Sword. The conflict was said to have ended on the accession of Henry VII. Order your copy here. 

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Notes: The herball, or Generall historie of plantes by Gerard, John. 1636. p.1460. 

This post was updated on 16 April 2021.