Rachel's recipes: Apricots any which way & a decadent Apricot & White Chocolate Tart
The arrival of apricots signals the first blush of summer. The fuzzy little balls lend themselves to being blitzed into purees, compoted into elegant desserts, simmered into fragrant jam or mushed with lamb to produce an unctuous tagine. Really you can let your imagination run riot and experiment to your heart’s content. They are a convenient health powerhouse with lots of beta carotenes and Vitamin A that help protect the heart and eyes and of course they contain high levels of disease-fighting fiber (worth remembering should you be tempted to over indulge!)
Personally I am not so keen on fresh apricots eaten raw – a light poaching or roasting concentrates the flavor and improves the texture. Poach with very little water and a bay leaf and some lemon juice, or try orange juice and zest, star anise and red pepper. Roast apricots (halved and roasted for 30 minutes on a tray) sprinkled with fresh thyme, a little honey and served with yoghurt are a simple delight. For an easy-peasy fruit fool blend roast apricots into a puree, whisk “smantana dulce” into soft peaks and add the same volume of yoghurt, add the puree so it ripples through the cream and yoghurt mix. Serve in glasses to impress!
Apricots are eaten fresh and dried throughout the Middle East and the fruit puree is dried in flat sheets to make a “fruit leather”. This clever storehouse staple is then reconstituted with water to make desserts and sweetmeats in winter months. The Moroccans of course put apricots into savory dishes. I recall a particularly memorable apricot and lamb tagine in Marrakesh, where the apricots had almost disintegrated into a sweet puree, along with sultanas and preserved lemon and spices such as cumin, chilli and cinnamon. The meat was so tender it was falling apart.
Perhaps one of my favorite and most decadent dishes is my Apricot and White Chocolate Tart, a dish that I even managed to cook in the tropical heat of St Barts for a friend’s birthday. Pastry needs cool hands and a cool room but in fact this “no roll pastry” did work in the tropical heat, as long as the work is done fast! This makes for an elegant dessert or a more-ish afternoon tea slice.
Apricot and White Chocolate Tart with no roll pastry
The idea here is to create a kind of lemon curd filling that sets on cooking, encasing the apricots and melted white chocolate. The lemon juice and zest help keep things from veering off in an overly saccharine-sweet direction.
For a 23cm tart tin with a removable base:
250g fresh, or 225g dried apricots, chopped roughly
225g best white chocolate. DO NOT USE CHEAP CHOCOLATE – the tart chemistry simply won't work. Roughly chopped. I have often used the white Toblerone bar
110g melted butter
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
350g plain flour
225g butter 82%
1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the caster sugar. I make this in my mixer; use the K shaped beater until the mixture looks “sandy” or like crumble.
2. the clever bit – press the mixture into the tin by hand and create a pastry case. Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C until solid - approx 12 minutes.
3. Place the chopped apricots and chocolate into the tart case. Mix together the eggs, sugar, melted butter, lemon juice and zest. Pour into the tart case. Cook at 180C for 25 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing, but serve still slightly warm with fromage frais and for a showy touch, a coulis (ie pureed apricots a little icing sugar and some lemon juice passed through a sieve) drizzled over.
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer