Apricots are truly splendid – draped in their vibrant, velvety skins and with a fragrance of pure sunshine they instantly lift the spirit. Even their name is pleasing. But it is the unique, intense flavour of the apricot that most delights. During the English summertime we turn much of our attention to all the lovely ripe berries, and rightly so. But I think we shouldn’t neglect the other gorgeous fruits around, especially apricots.
For me, apricots taste especially delicious when cooked. As a child, I loved apricot jam above all others. It’s the combination of cooking and a bit of sugar that intensifies the aroma and balances the acidity into that deliciousness. Sometimes I add a touch of vanilla too. I keep a jar of vanilla infused sugar in my kitchen and use that, or otherwise a few drops of vanilla essence. I do think it’s important to use a good quality brand of vanilla essence – it makes a real difference. This morning I made a quick apricot and brown sugar compote, highlighted with a dash of vanilla.
Apricot and Brown Sugar Compote
6-7 apricots, (250g) halved and stones removed
half a cup (100g) brown sugar. I use gorgeous Barbados sugar.
a few drops of vanilla essence
In a heavy pan, melt the sugar with a tablespoon of water and allow to bubble in the pan for a couple of minutes over high heat. Be careful that it doesn’t scorch. Add the apricots and let them soften in the bubbling brown sugar for a few more minutes. I just let them cook down a little until they are very vibrant in colour and just losing their shape. That’s it. Add a few drops of vanilla essence if you wish.
This compote is lovely to eat just as it is, cooled a little. Or with some yogurt or ice cream. Or with a slice of sponge cake. Outside on the steps in the sunshine…thinking about Provence and market stalls laden with summer fruits, lavender and honey!