While there is very little better than a fresh apricot eaten straight from the tree, if you are lucky enough to have a good crop you will need to be a little more imaginative. Baking apricots intensifies the flavour and will bring the best out of any fruit that is not quite perfectly ripe. The combination of spices in this syrup enhances different aspects of the apricot’s flavour, while baking them whole – with the stones still inside – adds another layer of complexity, with nutty almond flavours emerging. Try this alongside a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream or with double cream. This baked apricots recipe would also work well with fresh peaches.
PREP TIME 15 minutes
COOK TIME 45 minutes
100g runny honey
5 cardamom pods, cracked open
generous pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp coarse sea salt
3 small bay leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
2. Put the honey, 100ml of water, the cardamom pods, saffron, salt and bay leaves into a small pan. Place over medium heat and cook until the mixture comes to a boil. Simmer gently for 3 minutes then remove from the heat.
3. Place the apricots, whole, in a small baking dish big enough to hold them snugly – you don’t want too much space between them. Pour over the honey mixture, using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to scrape out any saffron threads that have stuck to the side of the pan.
4. Roast the apricots in the oven for 40 minutes, removing them to baste and turn every so often, or until they are very soft, but still hold their shape.
5. Remove the baked apricots from the heat and either serve immediately or set aside until cool, then store in the fridge until ready to serve.
It is worth finding a good nursery for the best choice and expert advice with an apricot tree as it is an investment – particularly if you are treating yourself to a mature plant that will crop sooner than a young one. Make sure your tree is grafted on to dwarfing root stock and that it is self-pollinating. I chose the Isabelle tree which fruits late, after midsummer. This makes sense in a temperate climate, where the fruit needs all the heat the summer can offer.
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