I roasted the first apricots of this year, with dashes of butter and brown sugar. Summertime aromas filled the kitchen. They came out of the oven puckered and filled with the promise of concentrated flavour.
I poached the second punnet in a sugar syrup. Blush apricot juice seeped into the syrup and, in turn, the syrup clung onto the fruit, bolstering its apricotness. The result was enhanced sugar syrup (a dash of which would find its way into a glass of prosecco later in the week), and enhanced apricots.
Once cooled, I poured the apricots and sugar syrup into a 1kg kilner jar, which I manoeuvred into a corner of the fridge. A Hirst-like addition of floating orbs which was a source of utter joy for nine days before hints of fluff started to appear on the viscous top.
For the past two weeks, apricots have been 49p per punnet at Aryubi Express. I often walk past the grocers a couple of times a day, and can rarely resist dashing in to pick up more to poach. So, I’ve began tinkering in my spice rack for sticks of cinnamon and anardana to flavour the syrup with.
Cardamom has been the best addition so far, and inspired this dessert which my father said was in his “top five best ever puddings” (and then, upon giving it some serious thought, “actually maybe my top seven.”) Still, a big shout from such a serious pudding connoisseur and critic.
Apricot and Cardamom Pavlova
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of cornflour
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
350g caster sugar
6 - 8 cardamom pods
25 apricots, halved
300ml of double cream
6 tbsp plain yoghurt
50g pistachio nuts, shelled and crush
- Whisk the egg whites until they are forming stiff peaks.
- ‘Feed’ the egg whites with sugar. At the start, just add one tablespoon at a time, whisking as you go. You can speed things up a little after you’ve added the first 100g. Patience is the key to a stiff, glossy-white meringue mixture.
- Stir in the white wine vinegar and cornflour and then transfer the mixture from the bowl onto baking parchment. Use a spatula to create a nest shape, with gentle trough in the centre to hold the filling. Don’t do this by pressing down the middle, but instead, by building up the walls.
- Put the pavlova in a pre-heated oven at 140C for an hour and a half.
- Bring the water to a simmer in a large pan – ideally a stock pot. Add the sugar and then stir until it dissolves. Use the side of a kitchen knife to crush the cardamom pods, and then add them to the syrup, so they start to infuse.
- Put the apricots into the pan, cover them with a circular baking parchment cartouche and let them simmer in the syrup for 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. (Optional: sieve the orange-coloured, apricot-cardamom sugar syrup. Bottle, refrigerate and use for cocktails).
- Whisk the double cream into soft peaks. Stir in the yoghurt, and then stir in almost all of the cool apricots – saving some of the best-looking to decorate the top. Spoon the mixture into the pavlova nest, and then top with the reserved apricots and pistachio nuts.
NOTE ON APRICOT FLAVOURED SUGAR SYRUP
It will have a week-long life in the fridge, during which time it’s a good idea to get as creative as possible with cocktails. I sloshed some in a glass of prosecco and mixed some in a Long Island Iced Tea, but know that I was only scratching the surface. Please share any gems you come up with.