Scott Paton, head chef at Àclèaf in Plymouth, reveals his seasonal hero ingredient. This month, he shares a few tips on how to prep and cook apricots at home
Apricots are a great example of the kind of seasonal produce that can be underwhelming when not quite ripe, but absolutely stunning at their peak. The fresh fruit are wonderfully fragrant and, at their best, deliver mind-blowing flavour.
Stone fruits ripen in hot weather, so July and August are the time to enjoy apricots at their juicy best. Their affinity for warm weather means they’re not easily grown in the UK, so we source them from southern France and Spain. At Àclèaf we’re passionate about using local produce, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also source great ingredients native to other countries.
I’d recommend buying apricots from your local farm shop or greengrocer rather than the supermarket, as the former will have access to the big London markets which stock the best quality produce. To tell if apricots are ripe, look for evenly coloured skin and give them a gentle squeeze (they should have a little give in them). They’ll also smell amazing.
Stone fruits are best eaten at room temperature (when the flavours will sing) so keep them in the fruit bowl if you can stop yourself from scoffing them as soon as you get home.
Give them a gentle wash in cold water before eating or cooking.
When they’re in season I always jump at the opportunity to incorporate apricots into our menus at Àclèaf.
One of my favourite summer dishes is an apricot mousse with honey pannacotta and elderflower jelly (pictured below). Floral flavours pair beautifully with apricots, so using a high-quality local honey with a complex flavour profile really complements the aromatic fruit.
We’ve also experimented with apricots in savoury dishes – they’re a great match for fatty meats. A twist on the classic duck à l’orange was a big hit.
For home baking, you can’t go wrong with an apricot cobbler. Sweet dumplings topping a base of stewed apricot, vanilla and chopped basil makes a simple yet impressive summer dessert. And, if you have a few overripe apricots knocking about, blend them into a puree with a dash of elderflower cordial then top with Champagne for a delicious cocktail.