As autumn turns to winter apples begin to appear in the Nikau kitchen.
It can’t be denied that for a crisp, slightly tart, juicy eating apple it’s hard to go past a Braeburn. Discovered in Motueka in the fifties, and thought to be a cross between a Lady Hamilton and a Granny Smith the Braeburn has spread across the apple growing world and is now one of the most important commercial apple varieties. Even its supermarket trademarked off-spring like the Jazz and Mahana varieties make for good eating. Good eating though, doesn’t always mean good cooking.
At Nikau we are lucky enough to have access to some terrific apples, some are older heritage varieties, others more recent. From the Dutch Boskoop, dating from the 1850’s, to Merton Russet an English apple first grown in the 1920’s, or Freyberg, developed in New Zealand in the 30’s to Charden, a 1970’s French apple, we have the chance to experiment with a wide range of interesting varieties. We have used our apples across the menu and what strikes us as one of the key differences between these apples and the apples that your average vegie wholesaler only know as green or red, is texture. Cooked, many of these apples retain their shape and are perfect as a component of a dish. Others will fluff up beautifully, to be incorporated into pies or cakes.
An autumn regular in our cabinet is a Worcestershire apple tart. To get the perfect tart you need the right apple, and ironically, our favourites for this very English recipe are the very European Boskoop and Charden. They fluff beautifully and make a rich custard like filling which is a perfect base for the flavours of spice and rum that lace the apple. Over the cooler months, our breakfast regulars will be sure to come across caramelised apples on the menu as a topping for our porridge. Aromatic, sweet and sharp Cox’s Orange is our favourite here. Panfried in butter ‘til golden, then allowed to caramelise with sugar and apple juice, this classic English apple retains its shape and is beautifully tart and sweet. Spooned over creamy oats with lashings of caramelly apple juice and toasted nuts, these apples make a Wellington winter southerly bearable.
On the menu recently has been a lovely autumn dish. Serrano ham, with roasted Merton Russets, grilled endive and sherry dressing. The Merton is a small golden russet apple with a complex sweet and spicy flavour, complementing the richness of the ham and the bitterness of the endive.
Want to know more about apples? Orange Pippin is a website for apple geeks, with information on hundreds of varieties, and an orchard registry enabling you to search for a variety anywhere in the apple growing world. Once you’ve found your perfect pomme, try Edible Garden for a range of seedlings, if you have the inclination to grow your own, or visit Treedimensions for a huge range of superb organic fruit.