Shaitan’s Baked Apples. With Djinn Custard. One for Hallowe’en.

Three whole aisles of Hallowe’en gimmicks, Poundland? Really? It is all a bit OTT this year, don’t you think? What happened to making your own costumes and watching Blue Peter for further ideas? And as for this trick or treat business… it is a wonderful, fun but distinctly American institution, not British. We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving Day next. Anyway…

They don’t observe Hallowe’en in Veggiestan. The concept is by definition haram. But if they did, they would surely have been eating these devilish baked apples, which are filled with the region’s most fragrant spices. And a wee surprise.

Shaitan is the devil in Veggiestan (hence our word Satan). ‘Djinn’ are rather naughty magical spirits in Persian and Arabic culture: our word genie is derived therein. They have nothing to do with gin, per se, and so the custard is a twee culinary pun.

Ingredients. For a vegan coven of 4.

  • 4 large apples (cookers will do)
  • 100g pudding rice
  • 100g butter (or vegan equivalent)
  • 2cm lump of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 hot red chilli, washed and chopped – actually, you choose how hot you want this, but trust us…the heat works
  • 100g dried figs, soaked for 20 mins
  • 100g dates, pitted
  • 50g nibbed almonds
  • 50g nibbed pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon soft brown (or caster) sugar

And for the custard:

  • 500ml warmed (almost boiling) soya milk (we recommend Bonsoy: it doesn’t crack under pressure)
  • few splashes of gin
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 piece mace
  • 3 tablespoons Birds original custard powder*
  • demarara (if poss) sugar to taste – but not too much

*which is basically vanilla-y cornflour and thus vegan. Obviously you can make any custard you like, from scratch or otherwise, vegan or otherwise – but I was brought up on Birds custard (and Marmite with cress, and banana sandwiches, and…)

Aprons on? Firstly wash the apples and core them to within 1/2cm of the base. Then cook the rice in boiling water until it is just about done (about 10 mins). Leave it to drain while you play with the other fruit.

Melt about half the butter in a frying pan and add the ginger and chilli. Toss them in the butter before adding the figs and dates. Cook for two or three minutes, stirring constantly, and then add the nuts and spices. Mix in the cooked rice and take the pan off the heat.

Using a spoon, fill the cavities of the apples with the spiced rice mix (if there is any left you may regard it as chef’s pickings) and place them in a buttered oven dish. Sprinkle the top with the soft brown sugar, and dot the rest of the butter on top. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180?C).

Next to infuse the soya milk. Once it is nearly boiling, add the gin, essence, zest and spices and remove from the heat.

Pop the apples in to the oven. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the apple flesh is tender. When they are done, turn the oven off, but leave the apples in there to keep warm whilst you get busy with the djinn/gin.

Mix a splash of the milk mix with the custard powder and blend it to a smooth paste. Pour the paste into a saucepan and put it on the stove over a low heat before slowly adding the rest of the milk. You will need to stir constantly, as soya milk is not always as easy to work with as the regular stuff. Add around 1 tablespoon of demarara sugar, and taste to see if it is just sweet enough for your liking. (Do not underestimate the sweetness of the figs and dates in the apple filling: it is easy to make this dish far too sweet.) Keep whisking until the custard thickens and just comes to the boil. Take off the heat.

And that’s it. Serve and scoff. Whilst you admire your hand carved jack lanterns and listen to the children merrily bob for apples in their home-stitched fancy dress outfits…. ;)

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