Apricots are fuzzy-skinned fraudsters; time and again I buy them only to be disappointed once they reveal themselves to be woolly and tasteless – despite their plump and inviting appearance. Worse still, are those that are, on closer inspection, pale and tinged with green; these stubbornly refuse to ripen, lingering reproachfully in the fruit bowl where they eventually wither and shrivel without ever passing through the stage of palatability.
Bathed in sunshine, fresh from the tree, Greek apricots are delightful – and as honeyed and succulent as ever you could wish. Sadly, this isn’t an experience often replicated in Britain and so we must make do with those little punnets of watery-fleshed bullets on sale in supermarkets around the country. Fortunately, poaching has the almost magical ability to transform even the meanest and most unyielding of fruits into glowing, golden orbs worthy of the pudding plate.
Akin to a Proustian madeleine, bottled apricots involuntarily evoke memories of summer’s past – of languorous bumblebees and velvety, heavily perfumed roses. Served atop ice cream or beneath billowing waves of brandied syllabub, these preserved fruits make an uncomplicated, yet luxurious, finish to any meal. No doubt it’s already occurred to you, but may I suggest some langues du chat or other thin, snap-able, biscuits – bought or homemade – to add a crispy contrast?
A refreshing apricot fool is always most welcome, as is, during colder months, a classic crumble or buttery buckle – with a jug of vanilla-flecked custard or generous dollops of clotted cream alongside. Today, however, we ate our apricots in cobbler form – very popular and there was even enough for second helpings.
Recipe adapted from Jamie’s America– Jamie Oliver (available here).
50g soft brown sugar
100ml white wine or water
Sprig of rosemary
Butter to dot
100g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
50g soft brown sugar
Few drops of almond extract
Preheat oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7
Butter a medium sized baking dish (I use an old Pyrex oval).
Halve apricots and remove stones. Place, cut side uppermost, in the dish and sprinkle over the sugar, add the liquid and dot with butter. Tuck the rosemary amongst the fruit so that it is covered, as much as possible, by the wine/water. Roast for 5 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the cobbles. Whizz the butter, sugar, almonds, almond extract and flour in a food processor. Add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water to form a soft dough.
Remove the peaches from the oven and discard the rosemary. Place large spoonfuls of dough on top of the fruit. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cobbles are golden and cooked through.
Serve with cream, custard or ice cream – just be aware that the fruit filling gets extremely hot, and remains volcanic for an especially long time, so it’s advisable to let this cool a while if little people are going to be having any.