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Lady Claire Macdonald: There’s nothing quite like sweet apricots to get us through summer

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Lady Claire waxes lyrical about one of her favourite fruits and finds us two recipes to help celebrate apricots in all their glory.

Apricots are a wonder fruit. I have loved apricots always, I choose apricot flavour over peach any day, and apricot jam is one of my most favourites.

I could feast on fresh apricots daily but it is only fairly recently that I became aware just how nutritionally good are these wonderful fruit. First, they contain valuable fibre. But they contain Vitamins C and A too, and their colour indicates that they are a source of carotenoids. So indulging in feasting on apricots almost becomes a virtue!

Fresh apricots, when cooked, have a flavour kick which cooked peaches or nectarines simply do not have – eaten fresh, both fruits are delicious when ripe and juicy, but on cooking, they lose their identity as far as I am concerned. Think jam – apricot jam is delicious, but peach or nectarine jam just tastes disappointingly indistinct.

Apricots combine well with lemon or orange, and also with ginger and dark chocolate, and almonds, and vanilla.

Sublime apricots

My sister gave me one of the recipes I share with you today – it couldn’t be simpler, but it tastes so very good, with the added texture contrast of the pistachios.

Cooked, stones removed and the apricots whizzed to a velvety puree, you can freeze the puree for use at a later date, in a mousse, or as a sauce to accompany meringues.

Apricot tart is sublime, especially if you use ground almonds in the pastry base, and make a simple egg yolk and single cream filling to bake around the halved apricots – see the recipe below.

This is convenient, too, in that the pastry case can be made several days in advance, providing that you wrap it in a double thickness of clingfilm once it has cooled completely.

On the day the tart is to be eaten, it can be filled and baked several hours in advance – in fact, it needs to be, in order to be sliced neatly to serve.

Apricots are being grown in the south of England, and increasingly the apricots we see for sale are British grown. But out of their British season, we can buy fresh apricots year round, imported from other countries, notably South Africa.

I don’t usually recommend buying fruit or veg outside its season to this country, but when it comes to apricots, I become a hypocrite because I buy them wherever they are grown – for me, their flavour, fresh or cooked, coupled with their rich nutritional properties wins over my principles.


Roasted apricots with honey and pistachios

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ripe apricots
  • 3 tbsp honey (any variety but not heather honey)
  • 75g shelled unsalted pistachios
  • Finely grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon – wash both well and dry them before grating their rinds finely

Method

  1. Measure the honey into a small saucepan and put it on a very gentle heat to melt.
    Cut each apricot in half and twist in opposite ways. The stone should come out easily if the apricots are ripe.
  2. Put the apricot halves face down in an ovenproof dish. Grate the orange and lemon rinds over the apricot halves.
  3. Drizzle the melted honey over the apricot halves. Scatter the pistachios over.
  4. Bake in a moderate heat at 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25-30 minutes – the apricots should be soft when you stick a knife into a half. Serve warm. They reheat perfectly if you want to bake them ahead.
  5. These are good served as they are, with double cream on the side, or with vanilla ice cream.

Apricot tart with almond pastry

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 120g butter, hard from the fridge, cut into small bits
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 rounded tbsp icing sugar
  • 75g ground almonds
  • Finely grated rind of 1 orange

For the filling: 

  • 8 apricots, each cut in half, twisted in opposite directions and the stones discarded
  • 300ml single cream beaten well with
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. To make the pastry: Put the ingredients into a food processor and whizz to the texture of fine crumbs.
  2. Press these firmly over the base and up the sides of a metal flan dish about 20cms diagonal.
  3. Put the dish into the fridge for an hour before baking in a moderate heat, at 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25-30 minutes.
  4. Take it out of the oven after 20-25 mins and scrape and press the sides of the almond pastry back into place before baking till the pastry is biscuit coloured.
  5. To make the filling: Once the pastry base has cooled, arrange the apricots in circles – you may have some left over, which is fine.
  6. Mix the rest of the filling ingredients very well, then pour them carefully over and around the halved apricots on the pastry base.
  7. Bake in a moderate heat, at the same temperature as the base, until the centre of the filling is firm to the touch, for about 30-35 minutes.
  8. Cool for three to four hours before serving.

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