Ms Marmite Lover: Get in the harvest festival spirit with this apple, blackberry and rose water pie

Kerstin Rodgers from the Ms Marmite Lover blog reveals her troubling harvest festival memories as a Hampstead schoolgirl and shares her recipe for a delicious seasonal dessert.

One harvest festival at my senior school South Hampstead High School, I got into trouble. We’d been encouraged to visit local older people and I ended up with a pair of mischievous Jewish ladies, refugees from Germany, who lived in a tiny flat on Finchley Road. I invited them to the school harvest gathering in the main hall, where parents had donated food for pensioners.

The headmistress stood and beckoned pupils to collect food from the stage for our old people.

One of my ladies nudged me: “I want the harvest loaf”.

It was an enormous wheat sheaf, highly decorated and enticingly golden.

The other lady agreed and insisted: “We don’t want tins of soup, we want the bread!”

I was a little unsure but dutifully ventured up to the stage, grabbed the loaf and brought it back to my pensioners. They hid it in their capacious shopping bag.

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A few moments later the headmistress was on stage again, looking saddened.

“I’m afraid I have to announce that someone”, she said, scanning the hall sternly, “has taken the harvest loaf”.

I gulped. My old ladies stared steadily ahead.

“Could whoever took it please stand up”.

I was mortified. I was always in trouble at school and had narrowly avoided being expelled the term before. Once more, I was the bad one and it wasn’t even really my fault this time.

I hissed, “We’ve got to give it back”.

The old ladies grumpily handed back the large loaf. The bread felt very hard and I could see now that it had wooden skewers in it. Shamefaced, I took the loaf to the headmistress who sighed.

“You can’t even eat it, the loaf is so old”, she said. “It’s purely decorative.”

Trust me to get the naughtiest old ladies.

Here is a recipe for a harvest festival apple, blackberry and rose water pie, adapted from a recipe in my book MsMarmitelover’s Secret Tea Party (Square Peg). Rose water matches well with apple, as orange flower water does with carrots; florals bring drama to ordinary ingredients. I had fun making the pastry decorations, using a leaf mould and a sharp knife. If lacking time or confidence, feel free to make a plain unadorned lid.

Serves 8

400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp sea salt

220g cold unsalted butter, grated, plus extra for greasing

Cold water, for mixing

2 kilos mixed cooking and eating apples, peeled, cored, quartered

75g brown sugar (any type)

1 cinnamon stick

3-4 tbsps rose water

250g blackberries

1 tbsp white sugar

1 egg yolk, beaten with a few drops of milk, for glazing


23cm round deep pie dish

Leaf shape cutter

Preheat the oven to 180ºc (gas 4). Grease the pie dish with butter.

In a large mixing bowl or food processor, add the flour and salt. (I don’t sift flour, I just run through it with a fork to add air.)

Cut in the butter and rub with the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a few drops of water until it forms a dough. (Or mix together in a food processor.)

Split the dough into 2 flattened discs, wrap in cling film and leave to rest for half an hour.

Prepare the apples and put them, the sugar and the cinnamon in a large saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the apples are tender. Add the rose water.

In a separate saucepan, warm the blackberries and sugar for a few minutes.

Put both pans of fruit aside to cool while you roll out the pastry.

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out each pastry disc into 2 circles big enough to line and cover the pie dish, 5mm thick.

Line the bottom of the pie dish and press the pastry into the sides. Cut off any excess, this will be used for the decorations.

Fill the dish with the apples (removing the cinnamon stick), every so often dotting in the blackberries.

Roll the second circle of pastry over the top and, using a fork, seal the edges together. Add any extra to the rest of the excess pastry.

Roll out the excess pastry and using a combination of a sharp knife, cutters and your hands, make the decorations. This time I made an apple tree but you can do any design you like.

Brush all over with the egg wash.

Cut an incision in the centre for the steam.

Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Serve the pie hot, warm or cold, with crème fraîche.

Kerstin Rodgers is hosting a Secret Garden Club edible flower workshop and supper club on September 20th. Tickets can be bought here: £40 for workshop and lunch. BYO

Kerstin blogs at and is the author of MsMarmitelover’s Secret Tea Party (Square Peg 2014).