The taste and baking aromas of apple strudel is my childhood.
My mother, who originated from Montenegro, makes apple strudel in the Balkan style, we add walnuts and lemon zest, and she pairs it with sour English Bramley apples from her garden. Her apple strudel is a thing of beauty to look at and eat.
As the Austro-Hungarian empire took over and settled into parts of the Balkans for hundreds of years, so too did many of their recipes. Strudel is a favourite across the former Yugoslavia. My aunt, in Zagreb, hand makes the pastry (I use shop bought filo to make my life easy) and after stretching to a see-through paper thinness, she fills it with sour cherries. ‘Sour cherries’ I can hear you thinking as you read this!!! It’s worth the trip to Zagreb just to eat a slice…..
I know the ingredients list looks long and if you haven’t worked with filo pastry before, you might be tentative about making a strudel, but don’t be. This is a very easy dish to make as you basically line up all the ingredients, remove the filo pastry from its packaging, lay it out, brush with melted butter, add the apple ingredients, fold, roll up and into the oven.
Most of the supermarkets sell Jus Roll filo pastry, don't buy it. The filo sheets are too thick and make for a chewy dense strudel. Try and find Greek filo pastry - it is sold in all middle eastern shops and Tesco sell a Greek style brand.
There is one piece of kit that you might want to invest in, a rotary food grater (they are usually less than £10). It grates the walnuts in minutes, it’s easy to clean (dishwasher) and is small enough to go in the back of your kitchen cupboard.
Miraculous ingredients: Greek filo pastry, Bramley apples, cinnamon, walnuts
3 tablespoons dark rum
40g unsalted butter, melted
50g breadcrumbs (I use Panko as I always have it in the store cupboard for everything else I cook!)
70g demerara sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
The zest and juice from a whole lemon
75g walnuts, grated
900g Bramley apples
50g unsalted butter, melted to brush the filo pastry
1 pack of filo pastry sheets (they are usually 250g, but you’ll only use half of the pack which can go into the freezer) - buy GREEK filo pastry (beautiful thin filo sheets) and not Jus Roll (chewy, thick filo sheets)
Icing sugar for dusting
Whipped cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Place the raisins in a bowl, pour over the rum and leave to rest for at least 20mins. In the meantime…..
Melt 40g butter in the microwave, approx., 30 seconds (cover the bowl with kitchen paper so the butter doesn’t explode in the microwave). Mix the breadcrumbs into the butter. Add the cinnamon, demerara sugar, lemon zest and stir. Grate the walnuts and leave to one side.
Peel, core and finely slice the Bramley apples. Put them in a bowl and cover with the lemon juice.
Lay out a couple of clean tea towels on the work surface and carefully place one piece of filo pastry on top. Brush the filo all over with the remaining 50g unsalted butter (microwave for approx. 30 seconds). Lay a second piece of filo with a slight overlap on the first piece along the middle (you can just see the overlap in the picture below) and brush with melted butter. Keep adding filo layers and brushing with butter until you have 3 layers deep.
Sprinkle the breadcrumb, cinnamon, sugar, lemon zest mix onto one side of the large filo square. Spread out all the apple slices on top of the breadcrumb mix. Next, scatter the raisins and grated walnuts onto the apples.
Fold the edges of the filo pastry over the 3 sides of the apple filling and then carefully, using both hands, roll the strudel.
Place the strudel on baking tray which has been brushed with melted butter. Brush the whole strudel with melted butter and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
When baked the filo is a golden colour and crisp to the touch. Leave it to cool for an hour and then serve with whipped cream.
Apple strudel will last for ages covered with a tea towel on the kitchen counter, I have kept mine for a week until it’s all eaten.
Preparation time 40 minutes, cooking 35-40 minutes, 8-10 adult portions