Food Routes Food & Travel Blog
Welcome to the Food Routes blog. Here at Food Routes, we are passionate – or one might say fanatical – about food and how we believe it to be a major component in defining “a sense of place”. Name a particular food and a country immediately comes to mind….foie gras = France; pasta = Italy; paella = Spain. How many times do you find when talking about your best travel experiences, you realise that amasing edible adventures are inextricably interwoven in your tales? More often than not, we would surmise!
Just as that pinch of special seasoning elevates a food from the dull to the divine, we hope to enhance your Food Routes experience with the Table Talk blog. A regular sprinkling of stories on the history of the foods of South Africa, spotlights on culinary luminaries both past and present, exciting food events, festivals, wineries and unique food producers are certain to spice up your journey and hopefully whet your appetite for more Food Routes adventures.
A is for APPLE – The Queen of Fruit
Food Routes Foragings
At Food Routes our mission is not only to help guide Food Routes followers to memorable wine, dine and recline destinations, but also to provide the fervent foodie with a basket full of food for thought and literally for your pantry as well. With that said, we’d like to introduce a new and recurrent segment called Food Routes Foragings to our Food Routes Blog. Here, we will be dishing out stories about the gourmet gems being discovered by our roving Food Routes team as well as plating up online pictures and experiences submitted by our Food Routes travellers. Today, we set our sights on the seasonal. The harvest in the vineyards is coming to a close and with autumn now in full swing, apples are in line as the next main attraction.
A is for APPLE – The Queen of Fruit
As children, after mother’s milk, one of the first foods we experience is apple puree. Our initial foray into the world of reading is the proverbial pictorial alphabet book. And what is invariably the cardinal verbal and vocal stand-in for the letter A? Why the apple of course! The apple has played important roles in the mythologies and religions from a vast array of cultures. In Norse myths, the goddess Iduna provided apples to the gods that endowed them with eternal youth. The Greeks told tales of the hero Heracles’ Twelve Labours. On the eleventh we find Heracles embarked on an arduous journey to find the Garden of the Herperides and to steal the golden apples from the Tree of Life. And who does not know the story of Adam and Eve and the fate brought upon them by their bites from the apple plucked off the Tree of Knowledge. And in modern times, whilst oranges are king in regards to profitability on the international market, apples are the noble queen and still the most mentioned and depicted fruit in literature and art. It would not be too far a stretch to say that the apple is the most famous and at times infamous fruit of all time!
As a leader among foods in its genetic variability, the apple has the ability to adapt and make itself at home in places as divergent from one another as England and South Africa, New Zealand and Kazakhstan. China is the world’s leading producer of apples and South Africa holds a respectable 16th place in international apple production. A little over 60% of the nation’s apple crop is produced in the Elgin Valley area of the Western Cape. The main varieties grown are Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady and the Golden Delicious which South Africa is reputed to be the only country in the southern hemisphere able to produce top quality fruit from this variety… a major plus for competing against other apple exporting countries.
The Elgin Valley is stunning in spring when the apple and pear trees are in bloom; as well as in late summer and fall when the boughs are laden heavy with first quality fruits. An easy drive from Cape Town or Franschhoek, the Elgin Valley will nourish a soul hungry for the experiences of country life. Enjoy a delectable “country bistro” repast at the Platform 1 Eatery paired with one of the wonderful wines offered at the Winter’s Drift Tasting Station. Both venues are housed at the old Elgin train station. Sit back and relax on the platform with country comfort food and wine and soon you’ll find yourself drifting back to a longed for place and time – where the pace of life was sweet and slow.
And don’t forget during apple harvest time to stock up on the “from the farm – fresh off the tree” apples, pears and other local produce and foods offered at the Peregrine Farm Stall. Be sure to take home one or more of the ciders offered at this pre-eminent Western Cape farm stall. Any recipe calling for apples will surely be rated AAA+!
The apple is rich is symbolism. For some it represents temptation and mankind’s fall from grace, whilst others view the apple as a portal to an awakening and knowledge. At Food Routes we see the apple as a symbol of health, renewal and life’s bounty laid before us to enjoy. As surely as C. Louis Leipoldt is Food Routes resident culinary patron saint it can be said that the apple is Food Routes totem!
Lagniappe: In New Orleans, one of the world’s culinary capitals southern hospitality reigns supreme. Start off with some flair from the French, add a splash of Creole creativity topped with some whipped up Cajun wit and you have the Big Easy’s unique concept of lagniappe – (LAN-yap) n. a small gift, a little something extra given freely. Here’s one from Food Routes for you to celebrate & enjoy fresh in-season Elgin Valley apples at home.
APPLE with CRANBERRY AND ALMONDS CLAFOUTI
- 15mL unsalted butter, at room
- 75 grams plus 15mL granulated sugar
- 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 85 grams all-purpose flour
- 375ml heavy cream or for a “lighter version” use 250mL cup heavy cream + 125mL full cream milk
- 10mL pure vanilla extract
- 5mL grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
- 1mL kosher salt
- 1mL tsp cinnamon
- Dash of cardamom
- 30mL brandy (apple brandy if available) plus an extra 15mL of brandy
- 100 grams of dried cranberries
- 75 grams of slivered almonds (barely toasted)
- 2 to 3 firm but ripe Elgin Valley Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples
- Icing sugar - crème fraiche – whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
- Preheat the oven to 190°C
- Butter a 24cm x 4cm round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 15mL of granulated sugar.
- Beat the eggs and the 75 grams of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and brandy. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the apples. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish. Sprinkle the brandy soaked cranberries over the apple slices. Gently pour the batter over the apples and cranberries. Next sprinkle the barely toasted sliced almonds over the mixture. Bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, dust with icing sugar, or crème fraiche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.