Welcome to the stone age: Skye Gyngell cooks with apricots

Apricots have come into season late this year – so don't waste another second before popping out those kernels and cooking with their sweet, dense flesh
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Indy Lifestyle Online

The first of the really ripe apricots are just coming through. In past years we have eaten and cooked with them earlier in the season – late May, even – but recently the seasons seem to have altered slightly and some things arrive earlier than expected and others appear a month or so later.

I have only just begun eating this year's apricots in the past couple of weeks and now they really are quite delicious. One of the most densely textured of all the stone fruits, with a lemon scent laden with sweetness, they are an absolute joy.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Apricot tart

I often use this pastry recipe for tarts, as it's buttery and crunchy. You will need a 23cm (9in) tart tin with a removable base.

Serves 6-8

For the pastry

250g/8oz plain organic flour
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2-3 drops of vanilla extract
1tbsp caster sugar
A pinch of sea salt
125g/4oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling

12 apricots
4tbsp sugar
The juice of half a lemon
1tbsp caster sugar

Place the flour in a food processor and add all the other ingredients. Pulse until it resembles coarse sand. Continue to pulse until the pastry forms a ball (add a little water if necessary). Wrap in parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes, then roll out and line your tart tin. Prick the base all over and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice the apricots in half and remove the kernels. Put in a bowl and sprinkle over the sugar and lemon juice and set aside.

Now blind-bake the tart. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Line the tin with parchment paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and take off the paper and beans.

Arrange the apricots around the tart and sprinkle on the caster sugar. Return to the oven for 20 minutes, by which time the pastry should be nutty brown.

Serve just warm rather than hot, with a big dollop of crème fraîche.

Apricot and fino ice-cream

Serves 6

150g/5oz caster sugar
250ml/8fl oz water
1 punnet apricots, split in half with their kernels removed

For the custard

300ml/10fl oz milk
300ml/10fl oz double cream
6 egg yolks
2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthwise
160g/51/2oz caster sugar

To serve

4 tsp fino sherry
The zest of one orange and one lemon

Place the sugar and water in a pan over a medium heat and gently bring to the boil. Add the apricots and turn down the heat. Poach until falling apart. Remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and, while hot, purée in a blender. Set aside to cool.

Now make the custard. Place the milk, cream and vanilla pods in a pan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Once the milk begins to boil, remove from the heat immediately. Set aside for five minutes to infuse. Place the yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat to combine. Pour the infused milk over the yolks, stirring as you do so. Return the mixture to the pan and place over the lowest heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken (leaving a trail on your spoon). This may take five or six minutes; don't be tempted to turn up the heat, as the custard may curdle. When thickened, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once both the custard and apricot purée are at room temperature, combine and pour into an ice-cream maker. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, place it in a Tupperware bowl and put in the freezer. Stir every half-hour or so until it sets to prevent the final texture being too icy.

Once set, scoop into bowls, sprinkle over the zest and sherry. Serve at once.

Apricots with burrata

Burrata is an Italian cow's milk mozzarella. If you can't find it, try any other cow's milk mozzarella, such as fior di latte. They are both richer and creamier than buffalo mozzarella, so work well with sweet things.

Serves 4

100g/31/2oz sugar
250ml/8fl oz water
1 vanilla pod
3 bay leaves
The peel of one lemon
6 ripe apricots
300g/10oz burrata
A little freshly ground black pepper
The zest of one lemon

Put the sugar, water, vanilla, bay and peel into a pan. Place over a medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Split the apricots in half and remove the kernels. Place them in the gently boiling sugar syrup. Turn the heat down slightly and gently poach for two to three minutes until just soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the apricots and place in a bowl to cool. Discard the syrup.

To assemble, tear the burrata into pieces using your fingers, then divide between four plates. Pile the apricots on top and sprinkle over the black pepper and lemon zest. Serve.

This dish is also delicious and refreshing when slightly chilled. To serve in this way, once the apricots have cooled, place in the fridge for a half hour or so before piling on top of the burrata. You can also decorate with edible flowers, as above.

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