Fruit of the Week: Apricots
Each week plant-based cook Bettina Campolucci Bordi, founder of Bettina’s Kitchen, gives us the lowdown on a particular seasonal fruit or vegetable, offering cooking tips and a recipe. This week it’s apricots.
Fruit of the Week: Apricots
Summer is the time when I think of fresh and sweet flavours; produce picked straight off the plant or tree and sliced into dishes or popped straight into your mouth. Fruit is at its peak in the UK, lapping up the sunshine to produce fragrantly squishy fruits – from soft berries to stone fruits.
Apricots are one of the fruits I look forward to each year, sitting proud as a peach (its closely related pal) and piled high in a punnet from the farmer’s market. Just reaching their peak season and best when ripe, you want to look for an apricot that is evenly coloured with no signs of bruising or discolouration. Instead, look for something that has a slight golden tinge, with dark orange being favoured over yellow or a pale orange. The perfect apricot should be firm to the touch with just a subtle softness and a velvety fuzz between your fingers.
On the tongue expect a mixture of sweet tropical fruit notes with a more floral and slightly sour character when eaten raw, but creamy and rich when roasted and even sweeter when dried. Utilise their ability to pair well with both sweet and savoury dishes. Play to their strengths by partnering them with bitter dark chocolate, baked in a tart or pie. The complex flavour of apricots brings out the fruitier side of most ingredients, meaning they often feature in Moroccan dishes with cardamom, cinnamon and cumin. The latter brings out the sun-basked-woody notes that lay deep within the fruit and creates a depth of flavour only found in the layers of a beautifully rich tagine.
Not only are apricots a great ingredient for sweet and savoury, the spices that naturally pair well with them do too. Keep the cardamom and cinnamon but swap the traditional clay vessel for a baking tin and pair together in sticky-sweet glazed Danish pastries, poached thick in syrup or baked into a clafoutis. If all else fails – a thick base of frangipane to gently cement them into is always a crowd pleaser.
Apricots’ transformable ability transcends beyond flavour, making them an ideal ingredient to experiment with. Their flesh is delicate and soft to enjoy raw, but structurally sound to keep their shape in cakes and bakes. Like many of their orange comrades, apricots are rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene. They are best kept loosely wrapped in a brown paper bag or cloth and stored on the middle shelf in your refrigerator. You can also keep them in a cool dry place until ripe and ready if purchased a little more on the firm side – but make sure to transfer over once they’ve hit their peak in order to preserve the fruit for as long as possible.
Recipe: Roasted Thyme & Balsamic Apricots
- 450-500g apricots
- 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Few sprigs fresh thyme
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Cut apricots in half and remove stones. Place onto the tray, cut side up, and sprinkle sugar over the top. Then add the thyme sprigs and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the whole dish.
- Put in the oven for 30 minutes until nice and soft and slightly charred.
- Enjoy on their own or as a breakfast topping.
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