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Baked Apples

The burgh of Stonehaven, county town of Kincardineshire prior to the reorganisation of Scottish Local Government in 1975, has a new claim to fame. The town which nestles under the ruins of Dunnotter Castle (used by Mel Gibson in 'Hamlet') is renowned for its Fireball swinging New Year celebrations and for inflicting on the world the unusual culinary 'delight' of deep-fried Mars Bars. What a thought!
 
But now comes the discovery that life on land began, 420 million years ago, at Cowie Harbour, to the north of Stonehaven. A local bus driver and amateur paleontologist Michael Newman has come up trumps - a fossil he picked up last year has been identified as the oldest air-breathing creature ever discovered. Experts from the National Museums of Scotland and America's Yale University have spent months examining the 1 cm long millipede, and have named the fossil Pneumodesmus newmani, in honour of Michael Newman. Scientists say the fossil is around 420 milion years old, some 20 million years older than what had previouly been believed to be the oldest breathing animal - a spider-like creature found at nearby Rhynie in Aberdeenshire.
 
Unlike this week when Arctic winds and snow are blasting Scotland, Stonehaven, 420 million years ago was baking under a tropical sun as part of a giant continent known as Larussia or the Old Red Sandstone Continent which incorporated parts of modern-day Europe (but not England), Siberia and North America. Stonehaven is in an area rich in fossils and Michael Newton's discovery should help provide a boost to Stonehaven's tourist industry as paleontologists flock to follow in his ground-breaking example.
 
As Arctic conditions grip Scotland a hot recipe springs to mind - not deep-fried Mars Bars, we will leave that to a fish and chip shop in Stonehaven - but a much healthier option Baked Apples. Serves four but quantities may be halved for two people.
 
Baked Apples
 
Ingredients : 4 medium cooking apples; 2 handfuls of raisins; 2 tablespoons porridge oats; 4 teaspoons runny honey
 
Pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C, 375 deg F or Gas Mark 5.
 
Remove the apple cores with a potato peeler or sharp knife. Cut through the skin of the apples right round the centre of the apple. Place the cored apples upright on a baking tray or oven-proof dish. Add enough cold water to cover the base of the dish. Mix the raisins, porridge oats and honey in a bowl, then fill the empty cores of the apples with the mixture pushing it right down. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. Serve with yoghart - low-fat for that healthy option!

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