DRIED apricots can be bought in a variety of forms, from tough little bits of leather-like substance giving scarcely a hint of apricot flavour to the other extreme, soft and luscious chunks which taste intensely of the fruit.
And somewhere in between are dried apricots which, when simmered well in water – can be made into a number of delicious puddings and cakes. Dried apricots are very nutritious and should form a part of our regular diet. They are delicious combined with other tastes, notably with lemon or orange, with spices – especially with ginger – and with dark chocolate. They can form a part of a warm fruit salad, very good for breakfast or as a final course for lunch or supper. I always add chopped dried apricots (and prunes) to my Christmas cake and pudding – better by far than any glacé cherries.
Warm apricot, pineapple and ginger fruit salad
12 dried apricots, cut in half and simmered in just over a pint of water containing the pared rind of ½ a lemon, till the apricots are tender, about 30-35 minutes. Cool in the water.
1 pineapple, skin cut away with a serrated knife, the pineapple cut lengthways into quarters, the tough inner core sliced away and the quarters sliced into small chunks
6 pieces of preserved ginger, sliced into fine slivers
2 tablespoons ginger syrup
1 pint/570ml apricot water, the lemon rind fished out and discarded
2 cardamom seeds, bashed with the end of a rolling pin
Put the ginger syrup and apricot water into a sauté pan and add the tender apricot halves, the bashed cardamom, the pineapple chunks and the ginger slivers. Heat gently, and turn the contents of the pan into a warm serving dish. Keep this dish warm until you are ready to serve. If you like, serve with whipped cream containing diced preserved ginger.
Dried apricots and oranges in caramel sauce
12 plump dried apricots, each cut in half and simmered in water containing the pared rind of 1 orange until the apricots are soft, about 30-35 minutes. Cool them in the water, then drain in a sieve for 10 minutes, to let all the liquid seep from the apricots.
4 oranges, their skin sliced away with the white pith using a sharp serrated knife. Then slice in towards the middle of each orange, slicing in between the tough white pith separating each piece. Put the sliced pithless orange segments into a bowl.
For the caramel sauce
6oz/170g granulated sugar
½ pint/285ml double cream, heated
Put the granulated sugar into a saucepan over moderate heat. Shake the pan from time to time, but do not use a spoon. Gradually, the sugar granules start to dissolve – don’t be tempted to speed this up, because if the heat is too high beneath the pan the sugar will scorch, and then taste bitter. When all the sugar has dissolved and a thick amber-like caramel is in the pan, pour in the hot cream and take the pan off the heat. Stir, carefully so as not to splatter yourself with bubbling caramel cream. Gradually the caramel will dissolve in the heat of the cream. Add the drained apricot halves and the orange segments to the caramel cream, and serve warm. This is good with crisp lemon biscuits.
A suedoise is a set fruit purée. This can be made a day in advance, but only put the cream on top the day of eating. The apricot flavour is spiked with lemon, and I like to serve this in individual glasses with a spoonful of whipped cream flavoured with lemon on top. If you like, you can make small meringues and put a couple on each glassful.
1lb/450g plump dried apricots simmered in just over half a pint of water containing the pared rind of 1 lemon, and its juice, till the apricots are soft. This takes about 35 minutes.
4oz/110g caster sugar
5 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
Drain the hot apricots reserving ½ pint/285ml of the liquid.
Put the apricots into a food processor and whiz, adding the sugar through the funnel of the processor lid. The apricots will become pale and thick – lift the gelatine from its cold water, and drop them into the reserved hot apricot water.
Swirl the pan, the gelatine will dissolve immediately. Add this liquid to the whizzing apricots.
Divide the smooth apricot mixture evenly between 6 glasses, or, if you would prefer, in one serving dish. Leave till set.
For the cream
½ pint/285ml double cream, whipped but not stiffly
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2oz/55g caster sugar
Fold the sugar and finely grated lemon rind into the softly whipped cream.
When the suedoise is set, spoon the lemon cream on top of each glass and its contents.