My eyes were drawn to an open cardboard carton that sat on the workbench beside our front door. I had just arrived home and my first thought was that Ben had forgotten to take it down to the recycling bin. It wasn't until I peeked into it that I realised, with an audible gasp, it was in fact full of blushing, fuzzy-skinned apricots from our neighbours tree.
Is there anything quite so special than the gifting of fresh homegrown produce? I am at a loss to come up with anything that matches that euphoric feeling!
I cradled the box inside and found a couple of bowls to decant them into. Standing back to admire the beauty of a heavily laden kitchen bench, I felt the corners of my mouth rise to give a gentle smile.
It was with great gusto that I slowly worked my way through those sunshine filled fruits until only a few remained in the bottom of the bowl, reserved for the pleasure of enjoying them fresh, allowing the juices to run down my hands.
The others were poached with cardamom, honey and star anise. A large pot bubbled away happily, perfuming the whole house with sweetness and a delicate aroma of lavender escaped until it had reached setting point, ready to be poured into the awaiting jars. A thick, sticky experiment resulted in a cordial of sorts was bottled and the remaining were tossed with a few lonesome plums, pieces of dark chocolate and a touch of rosewater before being tumbled onto the centre of a buttery, gingery spiced pastry. Carefully pleating the edges to hold it all together, a fine scattering of demerara sugar glistened around the edges.
The smell, the sight, the rusticity of it all had my mouth watering, I couldn't help but pinch a little of the golden crust off and pop it into my mouth as I brushed orange-hued apricot jam over the top. It was thoroughly enjoyed over the following days with a large dollop of greek yoghurt spooned on top, but I would imagine that vanilla bean ice cream or crème fraiche would be just as delightful.
For the pastry
240g plain flour
1 tbsp. caster sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
180g chilled unsalted butter
about 60ml chilled water
Measure out the ingredients into a bowl, reserving the chilled water for now, then tip out onto your bench. using a pastry scraper, cut the butter into the flour until only smallish chunks remain. drizzle over a little of the water and then carefully bring it together to form a ball. You still want to be able to see chunks and streaks of butter throughout. wrap it up or place into a bowl with an upturned plate on top and rest in the fridge for 40 minutes. You can always make this the day before and leave in the fridge, just remember to take it out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before so that it can be easily rolled out.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and place a sheet of baking paper over a baking tray or a pizza oven tray. I use a pizza tray which measures 30cm. roll out the dough on a lightly floured bench until it is slightly larger than the tray. then roll up onto the rolling pin and drape it over the tray.
while the pastry rests in the fridge you can make the filling.
750g apricots, halved, pitted and quartered
30g dark chocolate, chopped
50g coconut sugar
50g caster sugar
40g plain flour
1 tsp rosewater
2 tbsp. almond meal for sprinkling on the base
demerara sugar for sprinkling
Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, reserving the almond meal. Sprinkle the almond meal over the base of the pastry and then carefully tumble the fruit onto the centre of the pastry leaving about a 5cm border. lift the edges to form pleats and to hold the fruit in place and then sprinkle with the demerara sugar.
Place into your oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to rest for at least 40 minutes. But its equally delicious at room temperature when its completely cooled down. Enjoy with a dollop of yoghurt, a scoop of ice cream or a lick of crème fraiche.
It will keep well for at least 4 days.