After incubating the ground over the summer months the sun grows soft and the wind drops a degree in temperature – signalling agriculturalists to prepare for winter. It’s now that our farmers hard work comes to fruition through an incredible variety of plant species ready for harvest. At this moment, we experience a gastronomical crossing of seasons. Sun greedy fruit and vegetables like aubergine, courgettes, fennel, artichokes and corn sit on a seasonal table comfortably alongside sunset coloured squashes, blackberries, pears and plums.
Paradoxically most shops and supermarkets only sell imported versions of these vegetables at this time of year. If this is the case in your area, send in a request for more seasonal produce, grow your own or make a worthwhile trip to a local farmer’s market, to taste the more nourishing, flavour-packed counterpart.
One incredible fruit, often only thought of as an imported luxury, is apricots. Apricots are grown in orchards across the United Kingdom and – as they don’t travel well – are often the tastiest on the shelf. Picked too early they will never sweeten, too late and they can be floury. Choose apricots that are rich in beta-carotene with a deep sunset-yellow colour, still a little firm and with a mild aroma. And prioritise buying organic whenever possible as stone fruits contain high pesticide residues. I recommend whizzing them up in a late summer daiquiri, or preserving them in brandy quite literally storing bursts of sunshine for mid-winter treats.
The delicious fragrance in a baked apricot is carried so well by in an aromatic almond frangipane. I love indulging in the leftovers served for breakfast with yoghurt. If you’ve missed apricots then any other seasonal fruit will work just as well.
Ingredients – Makes about 12 portions
250g whole spelt or wheat flour
190g butter, cold, cut into 1cm cubes
500g British apricots, cut in half, seed removed
250g brown sugar
125g butter, slightly softened
100g ground almond
1 large egg
Preheat oven 180C
To make the ruff puff pastry pour the flour in a bowl, add 190g of cold butter cut into cubes and stir. Mix in 125ml of cold water. Form the pastry into a ball and roll out into a large rectangle. Fold the dough in by one third on one side then fold the other third over the top. Roll out the sheet again then repeat by folding a third and third. Place in cling film then put into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Lay the apricots on a baking tray, sprinkle with 150g of the sugar. Take 25g of the softened butter and place a tiny piece on top of each apricot. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes until the sugar is melted and the apricots have just begin to soften.
To make the frangipane, mix the ground almonds, remaining 100g of sugar, egg and 100g of softened butter and beat until smooth.
Roll out the pastry 3-5mm thick onto a large baking tray. Using a knife, score a border into the pastry about 1 inch from the edge. Spread the frangipane mixture evenly over the pastry about 1cm thick, up to the border, placing the baked apricots on top of the frangipane. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry and frangipane have risen and are golden.
This article was first written for Liz Earle Magazine.