Fall easily conjures up images of multi-colored leaves, flickering fireplaces, and warm scarves, but there’s perhaps nothing that feels more like autumn than slicing into a crisp apple.
That’s at least the case for James Rich, the son of an English cider maker, who celebrates all things apples in his cookbook “Apple: Recipes from the Orchard.” Here, James explores the many ways in which apples are more than just a simple snack. In his cookbook, he offers up recipes for a spiced pumpkin, apple, and cider stew; apple, rhubarb, and ginger jam; and squat, palmable goat cheese, apple, and honey tarts. The book is rounded out with insight into the many apple categories and varieties (did you know apples are closely related to plums, blackberries, and strawberries?) .
Related Reading: Sweet & Savory Apple Cider Recipes for Fall
Below, dive into a bit of apple history (there are more than 4,500 varieties grown in the U.S.!), then get cozy with James’ curried parsnip and apple soup. The soup gets its spiced flavors from a blending of garlic, curry powder, ground coriander, and ground ginger, and the finished, blitzed product is topped with a dollop of crème fraîche. You’ll soon find yourself curling up with a bowl every weekend until warmer days return.
Apple: Recipes from the Orchard, $20.66 on Amazon
Excerpted with permission from “Apple” by James Rich, published by Hardie Grant Books September 2019.
All About Apples
There are more than 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the UK and more than 4,500 in the USA. Some have been cultivated for centuries – there is evidence, for example, in the Jordan Valley of apples dating back to 6,500 bc – while other types are relatively young. New varieties are being discovered and bred every year as global demand continues to grow.
The apple, or Malus domestica, is a member of the rose family. It is related closely not only to pears and quinces, but also plums, blackberries and even strawberries. It is widely accepted that apple trees originate from the forests of Kazakhstan and that the Romans were largely responsible for the movement of trees around its Empire, creating popular demand for the fruit and cementing it as a mainstay of the diet throughout many regions of the world.
Everything from the apple blossom* to the fallen fruit can be used in cooking, making apples a hardy, versatile and delicious essential in the kitchen. Even smoking apple wood on the barbecue imparts a subtle sweet and fruity flavour to meat, fish and vegetables.
Apples come in many different shapes and sizes, flavours and textures. There are thousands of varieties across the world, each with distinctive characteristics that make it most suitable to be enjoyed in particular recipes.
Related Reading: A Breakdown of Apples You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Much of this depth of variety is thanks to the fact that every apple tree is unique. Most apple trees breed through cross-pollination: the pollen from one tree being deposited on the stigma of another tree – by bees and insects or by the wind – to fertilise it. Trees belong to specific, compatible pollinating groups that give the best resulting fruit. The seeds from each apple of that tree create independent offspring, because they are a cross between the original tree and the one that it has been pollinated with. The fruit of the resulting tree will therefore be a mix between the two parents and a different apple to the original parent or even its sibling trees. This can often result in orchards having a tendency to being home to a whole host of apple tree varieties and mixes growing together.
To help combat this and generate consistent apples from the trees, master apple growers cultivate their trees in a very specific way, by taking the rootstock, which is an existing and established set of roots, and grafting a tree bud or growth to that stock. This results in a tree that is healthy, and crucially that is a direct replica of the original tree, and therefore one that will bear the same fruit. (Pears, plums, cherries and medlars are also grown in this way.)
Using rootstock allows consumers to buy apples of a consistent style and variety from supermarkets or suppliers. While the more random style of natural pollination gives us the opportunity to buy unique local apples from farm shops or smaller outlets. That sounds like the best of both worlds!
Apple blossom also has a role to play in keeping us healthy. Not only does it bear the buds that form into apples, but it is also very high in antioxidants and has been said to reduce stress and aid digestion. Apple blossom can be brewed as a tea, added to a cocktail or drink, or used as a garnish for salads and cakes. Flowering from April to June, apple blossom petals have a citrus-like flavour and the stems can taste similar to rhubarb.
Apple Slicer, $14.99 on Amazon
Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup Recipe
I am a big fan of parsnips and their subtle herby sweetness, which incidentally makes them a great companion to apples. Throw in some curry spices and you have an aromatic and flavourful bowl of hearty warmth. This soup is very quick and easy to make – and what’s more will fill your home with beautiful sweet and spicy aromas while it cooks.
Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cooking apple, such as a Bramley, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) chicken stock
- juice of ½ lemon
- crème fraîche
- coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 2 minutes. Then add the parsnips and potatoes and fry for a further 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes.
- Throw in the spices and some salt and pepper and give everything a good stir with a wooden spoon to allow the spices to toast. Add the apple and fry for 1 minute.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes until all the vegetables are soft and mush easily with the wooden spoon. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
- Blitz the soup in batches using a food processor or hand-held blender until it is smooth. When everything is blended, add the lemon juice and stir.
- To serve, warm the soup, then ladle into bowls. Top with a swirl of crème fraiche and a sprinkling of crushed, toasted coriander seeds.
Header images courtesy of Jacqui Melville