My love of apricots will be no secret to anyone who reads this blog regularly. Nor am I strikingly original in this deep and all-too-seasonal passion. What is there not to adore about a perfectly formed apricot? There is something so fragile about their soft, downy curves, yet their bold and robust colouring hints at the flavoursome promise within. I love the blushing, deep red, slightly freckled specimens best, as the russet hues whisper of long hours in the sun to ripen the sweet flesh inside. However, by and large, fresh apricots in the UK are a disappointment, being either woolly and bland or overripe and unpleasantly mushy. Only by cooking can you bring out the marigold, sweet-tart joys of the apricot. Here are ten of my favourite (sweet and savoury) recipes to make the most of these gorgeous fruits, while they are cheap and plentiful in summer; most are mine, some are from other inspiring cooks.
Apricot, blueberry and lavender breakfast crumble. Like the classic dessert, but made breakfast-friendly with less sugar and fat. In fact, it’s even vegan, but only by accident, and it tastes glorious. Apricot soften to a golden tangle with vivid purple blueberries, topped with a spiced, crunchy oat topping and pervaded by the gentle perfume of lavender. This is your must-make summer breakfast when apricots are in season.
Apricot fattoush. Thomasina Miers recently suggested an excellent recipe for the classic Middle Eastern salad, fattoush, using peaches instead of tomatoes. I went a step further and used just-ripe fresh apricots. It was absolutely glorious paired with slow-cooked lamb; the tangy apricots work beautifully with the salty feta, crunchy leaves and pitta croutons. Click the link and scroll down to the bottom of the page for the recipe.
Bottled apricots. How to preserve these beauties for the winter, without turning them into jam? Answer: bottling. This keeps all the flavour and texture of the apricot, cooking them only gently in a spiced syrup before bottling them. They keep for over a year, and are excellent on porridge or granola throughout the sad, apricot-less winter months.
Nigel Slater’s chicken with apricots and coconut milk. Thai curry meets the fruit of the Mediterranean, with surprisingly pleasing results. The sweet apricots work wonderfully with the mellow aromatics and the meaty chicken.
Apricots baked in a parcel. A very easy way to make the most of the fruit, by letting it steam in its own juices along with a selection of aromatics, which you can vary according to your tastes. There’s also the lovely surprise of opening the parcel like a present at the end of cooking and inhaling the deep, tangy aroma of apricots. You can even cook them like this on a barbecue – just put the parcel over the dying coals once you’ve finished cooking everything else, until the fruit is soft.
Apricot and almond custard tart. A real showstopper, looking like it belongs in a French patisserie, but much easier to make than it looks. A biscuity ‘pastry’ case, a filling of crème fraiche and honey, and burnished apricots baked until jammy and sweet. Summer at its finest.
Apricot, goat’s cheese and red onion sourdough pizzas. No, I’m not crazy. Slivers of apricot, burnished in a hot oven, work wonderfully against tangy pizza dough and salty cheese, especially when crisp red onion slivers and zesty basil are thrown into the mix. The link goes to my caramelised fig and goat’s cheese pizzas; simply swap the caramelised figs for fresh apricot slivers, thrown over the cheese before baking.
Apricot and amaretti tart. Half cake, half tart, this nutty, biscuity creation is perfect as a substantial mid-afternoon snack, or even brunch, or dessert served with a scoop of ice cream. It takes the classic combination of apricot and almond to a whole new level.
Diana Henry’s apricot and lavender jam, and my apricot, cardamom and vanilla jam. As she says, this is Provence in a jar, and is absolutely nothing like the bland apricot jam you buy in the shops. I also love to make a version using a vanilla pod and a few crushed cardamom pods thrown in while the jam simmers (without the lavender). The flavours are incredible together, reminiscent of syrupy Middle Eastern pastries.
Spiced poached apricots. The simplest way to cook them, and so versatile – try on porridge (with chopped dates and cinnamon), granola, Greek yoghurt, or French toast. The colours are stunning.