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Confusion on Grating - Apple Tart

Asked by MrsRandom. Answered on 19th November 2011

Full question

I am a cookbook junkie and have quite a few British cookbooks. I am wondering if the word "grate" means something different to a British cook? In one book, the author said to grate hazelnuts. I have a box grater, and could imagine the scraped and bloody knuckles I'd end up with, so I chopped them instead. Then in Nigella's recipe for Translucent Apple Tart from How to Eat (p306), I grated the apple, as instructed, but I chose to use the large holes on my box grater. Somehow the look of the finished tart didn't seem to be quite like as she described, it was full of little apple strips. Should I have pureed the apple? Chopped it finely? Or is grating (on a grater) what I should do?

Our answer

"Grate" has a fairly universal meaning and in Nigella's cookbooks generally items that are grated are done so with the large holes of a box grater (or the coarse disc of a food processor), unless they are specified as "finely grated". The exception is Parmesan cheese which is always finely grated (or in the US this is sometimes called finely shredded).

With the translucent apple tart we suspect the is a slight difference in translation on the type of apple used. In the UK Nigella uses a type of apple called a Bramley, or cooking, apple. This apple is quite tart and has the quality of breaking down very quickly when cooked - making it ideal for dishes such as apple sauce. In the apple tart it will tend to break up a little more than a regular eating type apple. If you would like to find a similar apple then use one that would be normally be used for apple suce. In the US a McIntosh apple would be a good one to try.

Also the word "translucent" refers more to the custardy filling of the tart, rather than the apple component. Nigella refers to Southern American "transparent" pie where the custard filling turns translucent as it cooks. These pies do not necessarily have to be made with grated apple but can have other things such as dried fruits or nuts mixed in instead. So it would be quite normal to still see pieces of grated apple in the pie.

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