Among the myriad delights of summer fruits is the apricot, so incredibly sensual with soft and fragrant flesh covered by a delicate velvet skin, and colours ranging from delicate primrose yellow through to the bold orange of a blazing sunset.
Apricots in Britain
Apricots really belong in warmer climates. Summer fruits come from the hotter parts of Europe while South Africa and Chile also have a short apricot season in winter. Here in the UK you can buy apricots from May to September.
When buying apricots, go for brighter colours and leave the very pale fruits to ripen up a bit. The flesh should feel firm but not hard and should give a little under gentle pressure. Go for smooth skinned fruit without wrinkles or blemishes. If not completely ripe yet, leave apricots out at room temperature, but ripe fruits should be stored in the fridge to avoid spoiling too quickly.
Of course you could also try picking apricots rather than buying them. Britain has a number of delightful ‘pick your own’ farms where you can enjoy picking apricots and a number of other home grown fruits and vegetables. It’s an extremely enjoyable and wholesome day out for adults and kids alike!
You can eat apricots raw, including the skin but not the central stone, or you can make jam. However the sweet but tangy flesh of an apricot lends itself to desserts beautifully, preventing sugary flavours from being too cloying. Chunks of apricot also add amazing depth and interest to salads, particularly with chicken or ham. While you can make a delicious apricot crumble or add chunks to sweet breads, go for an open tart for a fresher, lighter option. When baking you’ll find that apricot and almond is a popular combination, because the two flavours go together so well.
Apricot and almond tart
- 370g pack puff pastry
- 900g fresh, ripe apricots, halved and stoned
- 50g ground almonds
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 220C. Lightly dampen a baking sheet and then roll out the puff pastry on top. Scatter the ground almonds over the pastry sheet then lay out the apricot halves, nestled close together. Cover the pastry sheet right to the edge.
Dust the icing sugar over the top and cook in the oven for about 25 minutes, allowing the sugar to caramelise a little. Serve hot or cold, drizzled cream or maple syrup – or both!