Sunday, 26 June 2011


In Bearn, nobody grows apricots - this is not apricot country and yet the two trees I planted 4 years ago are thriving and laden with garlands of fruit. The only good reason I can find for their good health and abundance must be that both were planted where the cows used to come home to rest at night when Mailhos was still a working farm - its was once a veritable cow toilet.
The soil around this spot is crumbly like couscous and black as a crows feathers and whatever is planted their is happy as larry and grows like the devil. They are sheltered from the harsh winds of the north and west  and thrive in the morning sun. For the past few years I have had enough apricot jam to get us through the year and weeks of tarts, compotes and clafoutis.

Soft and tender like a babys bottom tasting of honey and almonds, the garden apricot tastes nothing like the oversized, yellowy, floury and sickly sweet fakes that we find in supermarkets. Mine are dotted with russet freckles and glow an intense orange when pinched apart.

The stronger the colour, the sweeter the taste...
The flowers were in bloom early this year and suffered a little from the cold nights but luckily we had new blossoms in March which have provided us with all we need.
Early mornings the fruit needs to be collected otherwise the thrushes and chicken make a good breakfast out of the first, early fall. Jean Francois and I sit under the tree on stifling days like today with just our toes in the sun, the rest in the shade gobbling up the days catch.
I love a good sauce of this fruit with a duck fillet instead of the usual orange. The acidity married to its sweetness makes it the perfect fruit for meat sauces. Sublime in a crumble and makes the best of jams but of course once picked off the ground they rarely make it to the kitchen...

Apricot Jam Ice-Cream

6 people

500g apricot jam
1 litre double cream
275ml fresh milk
9 organic egg yolks
200g cane sugar
100ml vin d'orange

In the thick-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Heat gently and do not boil.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thick.
Pour a ladleful of the hot cream  into the egg mixture to loosen it and then add this mixture back into the hot cream. Cook very gently stirring constantly to prevent curdling until thick. Pour into a bowl and cool.
Put this cool custard into an ice-cream machine and churn for 5-6 minutes until just about to freeze. Stir the vin d'orange into the jam and add half of this to the cream. Churn for another 6 minutes. Add the remaining jam and churn until ice-cream. Serve or freeze.

Apricot Sauce and Chocolate Soufflés

6 people

400g pitted apricots cut into chunks
3tbsp cane sugar
Juice of a small orange
1 tbsp of vin d'orange (optional)

30g butter chopped into cubes
35g cane sugar
120g best quality dark chocolate broken into pieces
a pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp lemon juice

To make the sauce, put the apricots into a heavy based pan with the sugar and orange juice and over a moderate heat stir until the sugar is dissolved - no more than three minutes. Take off the heat, add the vin d'orange and puree with a food processor until smooth. Its important to keep the good apricot acidity and not add too much sugar but it all depends on how sugary your teeth are.
Preheat the oven to 190°/5 and butter 6 medium ramekins. Keep in the fridge until needed.
Place a heatproof pan over a pan of simmering water (the base of the pan should not touch the water) and melt the chocolate and butter together. Once melted leave to cool.
In  a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and thick. Fold carefully, with a spatula, into the melted chocolate/butter mixture.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy and then add the lemon juice until them form stiff peaks. Fold carefully and thoroughly  into the chocolate mixture. Divide between the six ramekins and clean off the edges with your thumb or a cloth. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 8 minutes.
The centre of the soufflé should be almost liquid.
Warm the sauce gently. Break into the soufflé with your spoon and pour a little sauce into the hole and gorge.

1 comment:

  1. A combination I never would have thought of, chocolate & apricots.... Can only be delicious!