COOK THIS: Apple: Recipes from the Orchard by James Rich - Modern Farmer

COOK THIS: Apple: Recipes from the Orchard by James Rich

Twice a month our writer cooks from the book and decides if these farm-to-table recipes are worth the investment.

I don’t know if you’ve heard the joyous news, but the Red Delicious is no longer America’s number-one apple—that title now belongs to the Gala. It’s still number two, but this is a welcome development for those of us that know that the humble pomme has so much more to offer. Right now, we’re on the cusp of peak apple-picking season, the time of year when you spend a few hours filling a bushel and the next week wondering what the heck you’re going to do with all that fruit. Enter Apple: Recipes from the Orchard (Hardie Grant; $29.99) by James Rich, a British food writer whose family has been growing apples and making cider for generations. Using apples, cider and cider brandy, the book moves beyond the expected pies and porky dishes (although you’ll find those, too), and includes everything from an apple and coconut curry to a spiced Somerset chutney and a cider Champagne cocktail.

A drizzly Sunday seemed like a great excuse to try the recipe for apple, turmeric and fennel soup. Fennel, leeks and onions are sautéed before adding apples, thyme and turmeric. This is then simmered with vegetable stock for about half an hour. The soup is blended until smooth and served topped with honeyed walnuts, red pepper flakes and fennel fronds. I found the turmeric a bit overpowering, but that’s easy to scale back. The apples added a lovely sweetness; this was the gently warming September lunch that I needed.

If you think of apples purely as year-round lunch-box stuffers, Apple is going to get you excited about the possibilities, as well as help you understand more about the different varieties available beyond the supermarket produce section. And if you’re already an apple aficionado with a backyard full of heirloom varieties about to drop, you’ll love the innovative ideas for using this season’s haul.

Wendy Underwood tests out cookbooks weekly on Instagram at @kitchenvscookbook.

Excerpted from Apple: Recipes from the Orchard © 2019 by James Rich, photographs by Jacqui Melville. Reproduced by permission of Hardie Grant. All rights reserved.

Apple, turmeric and fennel soup
Serves 4
Prep 20 mins
Cook 45 mins

There’s nothing better on a cool autumn evening than a warming bowl of spicy soup. Apples are great in soups, especially Bramleys. They break down adding a base note of sweetness while enhancing the other flavours in the dish. I love this recipe; in my mind it’s the perfect balance of savoury, sweet and spicy. If you want to take the heat up a notch, you can add more chilli (hot pepper) flakes at the end, but don’t go over the top with the turmeric. It’s a bold and confident flavour that can easily overpower, but used correctly will provide a golden warmth.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped, reserving any leaves to garnish
2 cooking apples, such as Bramleys, cored and chopped (about 350 g/12 oz)
2 sprigs of thyme
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
750 ml (25 fl oz/3 cups) vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of walnuts, very roughly chopped
drizzle of Apple syrup (page 116) or runny honey

To serve
chilli (hot pepper) flakes
fennel leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and fennel and fry for 5–7 minutes until everything starts to become translucent but without allowing it to brown. Keep an eye on the mixture as you don’t want anything to burn or stick at all.

Add the apples and thyme and fry for a further 2–3 minutes to allow the apples to start to cook.

Then add the turmeric and give everything a good stir to coat all the ingredients in the pan equally. Fry for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fruit and vegetables will start to stick and go slightly brown – that’s okay at this point, but you don’t want them to burn.

Add the vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring the pan to the boil for a minute and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. The fruit and vegetables need to be nice and soft and thoroughly cooked. You might need a little more or less time here, so keep watch.

While the soup is cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and toast the walnuts for a couple minutes, ensuring they don’t burn.

Add a little apple syrup or honey to the nuts, shaking the pan, until it begins to bubble and the walnuts are thoroughly coated. Turn the walnuts out onto a plate lined with baking parchment and leave to one side to cool.

Once the soup is cooked, leave to cool slightly before whizzing in a food processor in batches or blitz with a hand-held blender in the pan. You need to get it really smooth. If it’s too thick, add a little water or more stock.

Serve by filling bowls with soup and topping with the caramelised walnuts, a sprinkle of chilli flakes, some fennel leaves and a drizzle of olive oil – or any combination you like.

Apple, thyme and Cheddar scones
Makes 8–10
Prep 20 mins
Cook 15–20 mins

The flavours of the sweet apple and savoury, herby thyme blend nicely together in these aromatic scones, while the saltiness of extra mature Cheddar cuts through to provide a tasty bite. These scones are best served fresh and warm out of the oven.

200 g (7 oz/scant 1⅔ cups)
self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
100 g (3½ oz) cold butter, grated (shredded)
150 g (5 oz) Cheddar, finely grated (shredded)
2 sharp eating (dessert) apples, such as Cox’s, cored and grated (shredded)
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons whole milk, plus extra for brushing

Preheat a fan oven to 190°C (375°F/gas 7) and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.

Mix together the flour, mustard powder, baking powder, thyme and salt until well combined. Add the butter and rub the mixture together with your fingertips until evenly combined. Stir the cheese and apples into the mixture.

Mix the beaten eggs and milk together and gradually work into the flour mixture until you have a firm but moist dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is about 2.5 cm (1 in) thick all over. Cut out the dough using a 80 mm (3 in) cutter – you should get at least 8 scones and maybe a couple more and brush with milk.

Put on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, watching closely so that they don’t overbake. Serve immediately.

Apple, coconut and ginger curry
Serves 4
Prep 10 mins
Cook 25–35 mins

Apples and curry do not sound like they should form a dish together at all. But fruit works wonderfully in curries. In fact, I think they could be my favourite kind. Here, the tartness of the apples, combined with the flavours of chillies and spices, are soothed by coconut milk and together it forms something quite special. The dish can be eaten as a side or as it comes, alongside some rice or naan bread.

I really wanted to explore adding apples to curry and so the inspiration for this dish comes from a Caribbean recipe and another from Sri Lanka, a mix of East meets West. It’s important to use sharp apples, such as Granny Smith, that will keep their shape when cooked. It’s also important to leave the skin on. If you are looking for a milder version, then remove the seeds from one or both of the chillies. However, personally, I would go for full heat and add more coconut milk if it needs taming at all.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
4 dried red chillies, chopped
4 curry leaves
1 green bird’s eye chilli, chopped
4 large sharp, green eating (dessert) apples, such as Granny Smith, quartered and cored
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5 cm (1 in) piece of ginger root, peeled and grated (shredded)
50 ml (1¾  fl oz/3 tablespoons) apple juice
400 g (14 oz) tin of coconut milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan (skillet). Add the onion and fry for 3–4 minutes to soften. Next, add the curry powder, turmeric, mustard and caraway seeds and dried chillies and toast the spices for 1–2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the curry leaves, chopped chilli, apple quarters, garlic and ginger to the pan and stir well to mix everything together. Cook for 10–15 minutes to allow the apples to start to cook and soften.

Add the apple juice and simmer for a minute, then pour in the coconut milk and reduce to a slight simmer. Add salt to season and cook gently for 10 minutes until everything is well blended and the sauce is thick with the softened apple chunks.

Once the curry has cooked, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with either some steamed rice or a chapati or naan bread.

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