Christina Soong-Kroeger shares her love of food with her children and her recipe for a free-form apple tart.
By Christina Soong-Kroeger
I want my children to know where food comes from.
I want them to have a positive, interactive relationship with food. I want my children to eat seasonally, ethically and sustainably. I want them to understand that the choices that they make at the market or grocery store have consequences, both for themselves and for those that produce, promote and sell food.
I want. I want. It sounds all so self-centred and self-righteous, doesn’t it? It’s all about me, not them.
But I want my children to recognise and respect the cyclical nature of life. I want to share with them the warm glow of satisfaction gained by planting, tending and picking your own fruit and vegetables, and the thrill of catching your own food.
We grow lots of herbs and some fruits and vegetables at home but our backyard is not ideal for a vegie patch (not enough free space and not enough sun). So I look for other opportunities to teach my children about food. Last summer we caught crabs and cockles (pipis) with them and went strawberry and cherry picking, too.
A couple of weekends ago, my parents invited us to go apple picking with some friends.
We soon found ourselves at a busy apple farm in the Adelaide Hills, full of people picking apples. Like us, they’d come for the experience and the bargain prices. Like us, they were rugged up in coats and scarves against the chilly Autumn weather.
This apple farm sold five varieties: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fujis and Jonathans. Apples are $1.20/kg for apples picked from the tree and 40 cents/kg (40 cents!) for apples picked from the ground.
Ms 5 Year Old was delighted to find blackberries growing amongst the apples.
We trod carefully through the trees, picking apples as we went. After filling our buckets, we took them to be weighed, marvelling at the sight of a queue of satisfied apple pickers waiting to pay and depart. Just as we were leaving it started to rain – what lucky timing!
When we got home I started baking. I’d been toying with the idea of making a free-form apple pie for months and now I’d run flat out of excuses. I used Granny Smith apples, as they are best for cooking, sprinkled with lemon zest and demersara sugar.
I didn’t use any cinnamon. Like Jeffrey Steingarten, the US Vogue food critic and one of my favourite food writers, I believe that apple and cinnamon are an ubiquitous pairing, with the cinnamon often overwhelming the delicate flavour of the apples.
I wanted to taste the apples.
Free-form pies always look so delightfully home-made; I adore their imperfections. They’re super-easy, too, if you use frozen puff pastry as I have done in this recipe below. Go on – give it a go.
Apple Orchard, Holliday Street, Summertown, South Australia
Open 10am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday. Season finishes in June.
So tell me, dear reader. What food-related experiences and knowledge would you like to pass on to your family and friends?
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- 4-5 cooking apples
- 2 teaspoons flour, plus more to sprinkle
- 2 teaspoons demerara (or brown) sugar, plus more to sprinkle
- 4-5 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg white, beaten
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 degrees fan-forced).
- Line a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle with flour.
- Place frozen puff pastry on kitchen bench and leave to thaw.
- Meanwhile, peel, core and thinly slice apples, trying to keep slices together.
- Place puff pastry sheet on baking paper and sprinkle with flour and sugar. This helps to absorb juices from the apples.
- Place sliced apples on top of puff pastry, leaving an inch around the edges. I like starting from the outside in and forming a random pattern but feel free to get creative.
- Fold pastry edges in and press down lightly with fingers to create attractive creasing.
- Move apples around as desired to fill in gaps and look more attractive.
- Zest a lemon directly on top of the apple.
- Sprinkle with extra demerara sugar and dot with butter.
- Using a pastry brush, brush egg white onto exposed pastry.
- Place in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until pastry is browning nicely.
- Serve immediately. Pie can also be reheated in low oven (100 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes if making ahead.