The Dolomites were on fire! Like the grand finale of a fireworks display, we watched the autumn leaves give a last explosive and magnificent burst of colour…..before dropping exhausted to the ground.
We were on the hunt for apples and because they’re grown prolifically in this part of Alto Adige we decided to drive up here for the weekend. And apples we found.
All available roadside stops had crates of apples for sale and we sampled endless glasses of freshly-squeezed and hot ‘mulled’ apple juice at the local ‘masi’ or alpen farms (we now make this mulled juice for our winter and pre-Christmas Feldenkrais seminars: just substitute apple juice for red wine).
For the return trip we munched our way through packets of crisp dried apple chips. The trip turned out to be quite an ‘Apple Fest’!
Arriving home we just managed to catch the tail end of the annual “transumanza” or seasonal animal migration on their way back to the ‘pianura’ after summering in the high pastures of the Alpen Malga.
We happen to live in northern Lombardia near the Pre-Alpine Orobie Mountains with its Valtaleggio valley, famous for cheeses such as Taleggio and Bitto. But my favourite – as much for the name as for the great flavour – is ‘Strachitunt’ (pronounced ‘Strakki-tunt’), a blue cheese made originally in medieval times and still made from crude cows’ milk.
‘Stracche’ means ‘tired’ in the local dialect and because the cheese is made from the evening and morning milk of cows exhausted after their long walk to and from the mountains, it is called “tired cow’ cheese”. Love the name!
So…..here I have wonderful cheese…..I have crate loads of apples….I’ve seen glorious autumn leaves…..and I’m looking for a quick snack lunch, something quick and healthy but not a sandwich. I think leaves, leaves, leaves then I think of pastry leaves or ‘millefeuille’ and then I think of apples again…..and then…this ‘oh so simple’ apple-cheese-sandwich substitute came to mind!
Serves: 1 or 2 apples per person, depending how hungry anyone is
Preparation time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: c. 2 hours
Preheat oven to 100C/200F
Apples – 1 or 2 per person
Large piece of Strachitunt cheese – as Strachitunt is hard to find outside Italy, I suggest using something like a not too ripe Cambazola or firm mild Gorgonzola.
Fresh redcurrants (if available) or any other berry to decorate
Leaves to decorate
Wash and core the apples (you could also leave the core in)
Dry well and slice thinly (about 3mm)
Lay slices on a non-stick baking tray and bake in the oven for about 2 hours – turning them halfway through – until lightly browned and crisp. You may have to cook them longer if still not crisp, it depends on the heat of your oven and how thick the slices are.
When crisp, turn the oven off and leave them for another 30 minutes or so to dry out.
Thinly slice the cheese and layer up the apple and cheese slices
For decoration place on a lightly washed leaf and add a few fresh redcurrants or berries of your choice.
This is also great for kids – plus the dried chips keep well in a sealed container so you can snack on them throughout the day.