Yes, I’m banging on about apricots again. But this time it’s a little different – I didn’t go searching, ladder in tow, for an unloved tree in our neighbourhood, because we had apricots on OUR OWN TREE this year!
This is what the tree looked like about a fortnight ago. We only planted it about two years ago, but this summer it was positively smothered in ‘cots, to the point where the weight of the fruit caused the tree to weep. A better orchardist would have probably thinned the apricots on the branches, or done a better pruning job last winter, but with some good luck, none of the branches broke. And the ‘weeping’ form was brilliant for throwing a bird net over! The kids and I took to hanging out in our apricot tree ‘tent’.
Our tree is a later-ripening variety called ‘Trevatt’ and I have to say, I like the fact we get apricots a little further past Christmas than the common varieties. It means you don’t have to launch into cooking apricots and making jam in the post-Christmas period when you most likely can’t be bothered. And it’s fabulous, too, to be getting apricots when all the other trees in your area (well, in mine anyway) have finished!
So we have some pots of jam in the cupboard and some stewed fruit in the freezer to give us a sunny sweet smile on our breakfast in winter. And I made this pie that is so simple but doesn’t need to be anything more, as it just lets the beautiful rich flavour of cooked apricots shine through in a gorgeous buttery shortcrust. Never mind if you can’t use home-grown apricots, as cooking any apricots will intensify their flavour.
Always my secret when cooking apricots is not discarding all the stones – I crack some and crush the kernels to a paste to add to the pie/cake/jam, just to nudge the flavour into a slightly more complex realm. Mmmm … I find a mouthful of this pie makes time stop for a moment!
Shortcrust pastry (with enough for leftovers)
340 g (2¼ cups) plain flour
55 g (¼ cup) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
pinch of salt
265 g butter, diced
1 egg, plus 1 egg for glazing
1.25 kg apricots
75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
2½ tablespoons plain flour
To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a mixing bowl. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until the butter breaks into small pieces and the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. (For speed, you can do this in a food processor.) Crack in the egg and mix to a soft dough. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes to firm the dough up a little.
Stone the apricots, putting the halves in a mixing bowl. Crack 5 of the stones with a heavy mortar and pestle or with a hammer and extract the kernels. Crush the kernels to a paste in a mortar.
Add the crushed kernels, sugar and flour to the apricots and stir for a few minutes, until the apricots look glazed and juicy.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced) and generously butter a pie dish. Break off about two-thirds of your pastry and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rough circle about 5 mm thick. Wrap the pastry around your rolling pin and lift it over your dish. Unravel it over your dish and lightly press it down, and trim off the excess pastry. Scoop the apricots into the pastry.
Press the scraps of pastry back together and roll them out again, making the pastry a little thinner this time if desired. Lay it over the top of the pie and trim off the excess pastry. Gently press around the edges of the pie to seal, and decorate the top with pastry scraps cut into shapes if desired. Lightly beat an egg and brush it over the top of the pie to give you a nice golden crust in the oven. Sprinkle with a little granulated sugar. (Wrap up all the remaining pastry, including the piece you didn’t roll out, and store in the freezer for another recipe needing shortcrust.)
Bake the pie in the oven for 1 hour. After about 30 minutes, when the edges of the pie are nicely coloured, cover them with strips of foil, leaving the middle of the pie exposed.
When cooked, leave the pie to cool for 10 minutes or so before serving with cream or double cream.