“Apples are very diverse,” says Kirsty Chiaplias, owner of Carlton North’s cult Turkish-inspired cafe Babajan. “I don’t see them as just for dessert. I often use them in a variety of different ways and across so many different cuisines. They add sweetness, balanced acidity and texture to a range of dishes.”
The humble, versatile fruit is a feature right across Babajan’s menu. One of the cafe’s most popular dishes is a fried chicken sandwich topped with white apple slaw. Chiaplias and her team also cook apples down with sugar and aromatics before caramelising them to bake atop a Persian love cake, and they regularly feature in the salads showcased on Babajan’s counter.
Chiaplias says they’re equally approachable as the star of a dish or a supporting player.
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“They carry themselves on their own easily,” says Chiaplias. “But they also complement other ingredients.” She cites the French favourite tarte tatin as offering a starring role for apples, but she also uses them to complement ingredients in a range of dishes such as kingfish sashimi with black bean dressing and puffed rice.
Of course, individual apple varieties range greatly from sweet to tart, and light to dense. We asked Chiaplias to break down her favourite varieties and what they’re best used for.
Identifiable by its bright red colour, Envy apples are Chiaplias’s top pick when you want something sweet but dense. “Envy are a favourite of mine,” she says. “They have it all: the smell, the taste, everything. I love the combination of sweet and crisp.” They’re also the secret behind Chiaplias’s signature frangipane tart. Known for their juiciness and bright white flesh, Envy apples are ideal for salads and entertaining platters at home, as they tend to stay white for longer than other apples. Here they balance out the acidity of the dish and, along with a smattering of pistachios, crown the tart.
First debuting on Australian supermarket shelves in 2020, Ambrosia apples are known for their large size and light, crisp texture. Often only on shelves for a short time, they have a hint of honey and spice and display a visual combination of rosy red and yellow. Rather than baked or cooked, Ambrosia apples are best enjoyed on their own. Keep them in the fridge for a cool snack.
Jazz apples boast a sweet tang, with a taste ideal for balancing out ingredients in savoury dishes. “At home recently I did a very traditional slaw made interesting with a unique dressing,” says Chiaplias. “I used red cabbage, Jazz apples, fennel, red onion and radish, with a dressing made of miso ramen paste, yogurt, vinegar and olive oil. The paste added a bit of heat, so the sweetness of the apples helped balance it all out.”
Another good pick for a ready-to-eat choice. These also store well, if refrigerated they can keep their flavour for three to six months. If you’re on the hunt at the supermarket, they’ll stand out – typically yellow in colour, they have a balanced sweet and tart taste, often described as honeyed.
Granny Smith are of the green variety and generally the most tart, while sitting in the mid-range when it comes to crunch and density. Chiaplias says Granny Smith are ideal for cooking, appearing in everything from tomato-apple relish and savoury compotes to pork dishes.
“Pink Ladies are sweet, crisp and a little bit tart,” says Chiaplias. “They’re delicious and versatile. I love them sliced up and on a good cheese plate.” They also accompany pork beautifully. Typically a gorgeous red in colour, they stand out in a dish and look great on the aforementioned cheese plate.
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