Lucy Vickery

Spectator competitions winners: W.S. Gilbert makes a ham sandwich

Laurie Lee’s baked apples. Credit: MKucova

In Competition No. 3218, you were invited to supply a recipe as it might have been written by the author of your choice.

I tip my hat to Mark Crick’s Kafka’s Soup, which gave me the idea for this excellent challenge. In it you’ll find such delights as John Steinbeck’s mushroom risotto, Virginia Woolf’s clafoutis grand mère and cheese on toast à la Harold Pinter. Nick MacKinnon, Moray McGowan and G.M. Southgate were worthy runners-up in an exceptional field. The six who made the final cut earn £25 each.

Take plump apples of beech-leaf green, ripened in a cuckoo-calling summer. Score a line around their bounteous girths. Plunge a silver knife into their crisp white hearts, then stuff them with currants, sugar as tawny as a girl’s tanned arms, a dripping spoonful of wild honey from the comb, and dust with cinnamon. Place in an oven, heated to the intensity of cheek-burning midday, when dust rises from wagon paths and sets butterflies drifting like petals. Bake until the hot, tender flesh is overrun with cidery stickiness, scented like boozy honeysuckle, and dotted with the tiny stars of burnt currants. Over the apples pour cool, soothing buttercup custard, glazing the hot skins, melding with the juice of ancient orchards. Then serve, baptised by that first taste, never to be forgotten, heady as the wine of wildflowers, cool as dew-wet woods, and hazy as the song of the shimmering hills.  Janine Beacham/Laurie Lee

and so Bygmeester Finnegan diverts himself of his favoured receptacle for a brokefeast eggfest. He scurries at first sparrowtweet down the back gardai to the clucking hatch-hutch to fetch a still featherbottomwarm white cacklefruit, ei, ei, that’s quite an oeuf for the saucy pan already waitressing on the hot hob. He places the pallid ovoid with dewy relevance into the kettleblack pot and fires flames till the point of wetbubbling rolling bile.

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