Baked apples with ricotta and raisins recipe by Olia Hercules

I have a very specific memory connected to this recipe, when I must have been five years old (1989!). It is still the Soviet Union, but something exciting is happening on TV at 6pm. It was the first foreign-language series shown in the USSR, the Brazilian drama called Escrava Esaura (aka Isaura: Slave Girl. Read the Wiki page on it, it’s fascinating).

An hour before each episode began, my granny Vera would mix some curd cheese with sugar, vanilla and raisins. She would hollow out some apples, stuff them with this mixture and bake them until the skins burst, the flesh was fluffy and the cheese caramelised on top. I miss the ritual, I miss the excitement of early television, I miss her baked apples. I miss her.

Serves 6
raisins 20-50g
ricotta cheese 250g, or tvorog, or cottage cheese
egg yolk 1
demerara sugar 30g, plus more for the tops
vanilla extract 1 tsp, or vanilla seeds, or 1 sachet of vanilla sugar
cooking apples 6 (total weight about 1.2kg)

Soak the raisins in a small bowl of hot water for a minimum of 15 minutes. Drain them really well, so they are not too watery. Mix the ricotta with the egg yolk, sugar, drained raisins and vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6.

Take the cores out of the apples. Cut the tops off, like a lid. Then, using a regular soup spoon, stick it in about 5mm away from the hole made when you took out the core and move it around, scooping out some of the flesh. Then go in and dig a little deeper.

Now you will need 50-60g of filling per apple. Fill the apples, put them in a baking dish and sprinkle some extra demerara sugar on top.

Bake the apples for 20 minutes first. Depending on the type of apple you use it may take longer. They should be soft and can be slightly split, but not falling apart. Although to be honest, if Vera forgot about them, especially the new season’s summer apples, and they did rise out of their skins like puffed souffles, we were happy, because the fluffy flesh and curd cheese is what we were after, the skin eaten just at the end or given to Grandma to finish (she never wasted anything ever). These are good warm, and very good indeed cold. Enjoy while watching your favourite series, and hug your grandmother if she is by your side.

Note The curd cheese filling can be used in many ways. My grandma used to make simple thin pancakes, then roll the filling inside them, fry in butter until crispy and serve with plain sour cream on the side. You can also use it to fill yeasted dough, then bake, so you get the most delicious baked pyrizhky buns with a curd cheese filling.

From Home Food by Olia Hercules (Bloomsbury, £26)