Griddled Apricot salad

The sun is shining and the living is easy (just as long as you don’t turn the news on that is) yes folks, it’s summer. Or at least today it is. The soft fruit season is in full swing and you can’t move for berries, all kinds of plums, water melons,  peaches and late season apricots. They should be long gone but this year’s apricots are still around and seem to be all the better for their tardiness. Lee’s been lapping them up with baby rice and everyone else has just been eating them on a smash and grab basis although some (I’m looking at you Auggie) don’t realise that the stones don’t just go anywhere when you’re finished but you know these days in the grand scheme of summertime chaos a few apricot stones mixed in with the lego or down the sofa is small potatoes. Yes, I’m new to this 3 kids business but catching on/giving up fast .

When I’m not wondering how I’m going to survive the next 20 years, I’ve been playing around with all this apricot booty on the griddle pan applying a what’s good for peaches logic to them and it works. A light coating of olive oil first is all that’s needed and for this I find hands work best. The cooking process softens them up, carmelizing them on the outside and  making the flesh lovely and  jammy (overdo it and you’ll get mush so don’t leave them on too long – I find 2 mins is enough) and  you get those fab go faster stripes. Ok so I know that this isn’t an end in itself but it’s a major plus in my book…….. After that your options are both sweet and savoury.   Serve them with vanilla ice-cream and a few sprigs of basil (in thanks to Denis Healy this week – use asap!!!) and a drizzle of maple syrup for a seasonal dessert tonight. A glass of Sauternes would make this really special….

On the savoury side try a salad with some of Denis’ lovely lettuce, mozzarella and a lemoney basil oil. A dish that’s as  gorgeous as it looks. Summer on a plate……..

A salad of griddled apricots, fresh mozzeralla, toasted pinenuts with a basil and lemon oil

You’ll need:

Half a head lettuce carefully washed and torn into largish pieces

1 ball fresh mozzarella

8 ripe apricots

1 tablespoon pinenuts

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

The basil oil

A handful of basil leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

pinch Maldon sea salt

1 tablespoon pinenuts

About 2 tablespoons lemon juice

First of all, toast all the pinenuts (2 tablespoons). Make the basil oil – wash and dry the basil leaves removing any tough stalks. Blend until smoothish with the oil, a generous pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon pinenuts. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice to taste then set aside.

Begin heating a heavy griddle pan. Spread some olive oil on a plate.


Cut the apricots in half, place them face down on the oil  and flatten them slightly with the palm  of your hand. transfer  to the hot pan and griddle for about 2 minutes each.

Griddled Apricots

Turn them over for about 1 minute before removing them from the pan.

To put the salad together, toss the leaves with a little olive oil and balsamic and lay out on large plate. Drizzle the basil oil on top then slice the mozzarella and arrange this and the apricots . Finally, scatter the pinenuts over everything and retire to a sunny spot to enjoy your lunch.

Have a brilliant weekend,



Apricot and almond tart

June 22, 2010


I’ve got apricots this week and they’re a bit tart.  They seem to be one of those varieties that are rock hard for ages then become perfectly ripe (and amazing) for about half an hour before declining into mush. I exaggerate of course …..  but only a bit. Unless you’re prepared to stand guard over your stash, the way forward is cooking them. You can of course keep it simple and make a compote with a little water and some sugar. With yogurt it makes a lovely start to the day and on a slice of toasted panetone served with a mascarpone cream a really fab dessert.

Having been there and done all that, this afternoon I decided to revisit an almond tart recipe  I haven’t made for years. Normally I tend to  steer clear of recipes involving pastry – no time and it’s bad for you anyway.  I keep meaning to give it a go but  things tend to be bedlam in the kitchen  here and I never seem to get around to it.  Today was no different (I know my limitations!) so, on the way home from school with Dan I went to the shops and bought a block of the frozen stuff. Unlike other convenience products that make you wish you’d tried another recipe instead of taking the shortcut, frozen pastry is absolutely fine. You just need to plan ahead as it takes a while to thaw out and no, you can’t do it in the microwave as some bits will cook while others remain rock hard.

So,  thaw it out…….. but not too much. You want it cool but malleable without getting soft or, heaven forbid, gooey. This means that you can’t leave it in the sun and walk away. Ordinarily it takes a few hours and if the weather’s warm be sure to check in on it after an hour or so. When it’s ready roll it out evenly to the shape you need.

Line your tart dish but don’t trim the pastry, then put it into the fridge for a couple of hours. This allows the pastry to “rest” and “relax” (it’s exhausting living in the freezer section you know) so if it’s going to shrink it does so before it goes in the oven rather than during. It’s a pain especially if you like a bit of instant gratification (Dan was disgusted) but if you don’t do it the pastry shrinks in the oven and you’re left with overflowing filling which, if you’re making something like a Quiche is no fun.

After you’ve “relaxed” the pastry case you are ready to…………. not make your tart exactly but to bake the case. You bake the pastry case “blind” which means you bake it without the filling first as pastry generally takes longer to bake than most of the stuff you put inside it. As you’ve probably already guessed ,this involves a couple of steps. First of all you trim the edges of the case then prick the base with a fork but not too much or filling will escape later on. Finally lay a sheet of greaseproof paper over the base which you top with some dried beans or lentils. This stops the pastry bubbling up. Finally you bake the case at Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes. After it comes out of  the oven you  remove the beans and are finally  ready to go……really!!!

Apricot and Almond Tart.

You’ll need:

1 9 inch pastry case (see above). This is enough for 4-6 greedy people. Double the filling quantities if you want to do a 12 inch one which you might as it keeps well.

The filling:

7-8 apricots

100gr butter

90gr caster sugar. Brown sugar also works well but the result is slightly heavier and has a kind of caramel flavor

110gr ground almonds

1 tablespoon self-raising flour

1 large egg

Prepare your fruit by washing, halving and stoning the apricots then set aside for later. Make the frangipane (the almond stuff) by beating the butter until soft then adding the sugar then the egg. Finally, fold in the almonds and self-raising flour. Pour the mixture into the pastry case then top with the apricot halves (as many as will fit).

Bake for about 35 minutes at Gas 6 or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle and the top is golden.
Remove from the oven and serve either warm or at room temperature with some Crème Fraiche, Whipped Cream or Vanilla ice-cream. It’s a lot of work I know but, the result is pretty special. I dare you!