Two ways with apricots

The shops are still packed with summer fruit, and I suspect the lasts of the French apricots - which are now being sold at crazy prices like two dollars a kilo of ripe lovelies! What does one do with a kilo of very-almost-ready-to-turn apricots? Well, yoghurt smoothies are a good start, homemade jam, hazelnut and apricot popsicles, and clafoutis with blackberries, and yes, of course, apricot chicken and rice!

Do you know one of the first meals I ever properly "cooked" for my family was apricot chicken and rice - I was about five and half or six and had just learnt how to make it at the cooking classes at school. I suspect it was a very simplified version of it, and I must say I am quite partial to that tangy, faintly spicy, sweet-meets-savoury combination.  

~ Fresh Apricot Chicken ~

600g fresh apricots, roughly chopped, pitted
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 
800g kilo free-range chicken thighs and drumsticks
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large celery stalk chopped
2 medium sized carrots, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon curry power
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
black pepper to taste

Place apricots, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl and stir to combine. Meanwhile brown your chicken pieces in batches over a medium-high heat in a deep-based saucepan. Remove chicken and set aside. Then heat olive oil in the pan with the brown juices and chopped onion. Sauté onion until softened then add celery and carrots. Return chicken to pan and add spices, herbs and stock.  Now with your apricots, remove 2/3 and blend into a puree. Pour the puree until the pan with the chicken and stir to combine. Bring stew to the boil then lower heat and gently simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours thereabouts - the longer the better - checking and stirring every now again to prevent sticking and you may need to add a bit more stock. Just before serving add the remaining apricot pieces into the pot and stir to combine. Serve over a bed of brown rice or grain of your liking and garnish with freshly chopped chives or a handful of parsley. 

~ Summertime Clafoutis ~

A light French dessert which is basically a baked custard with whatever seasonal fruit you like. In spring try cherries or raspberries, for summer apricots, blackberries, for autumn apple or quince and for winter prunes or sans-fruit with lemon zest and fresh vanilla bean. I love how simple and easy it is to prepare  - which is why it has become my foolproof dinner-party favourite. And it looks so lovely on the table without need of fancy icing or accompaniments (except maybe some thick pure cream or vanilla ice cream). This is how I make mine:

1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
100g plain flour
4 whole eggs 
6 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup whole milk or cream
70g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon finely grated
**3 smallish apricots halved
**handful of blackberries
(or fruit of your choice)

Preheat oven 10 180'c. Brush the inside of a ceramic baking dish with the melted butter. Add the sugar and shake around so as to coat the inside of the dish - this will create a lovely crust. In a bowl add the flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest - with a whisk slowly stir until you have a smooth consistency. In a small saucepan melt the butter and let it bubble until it reaches a "golden" colour then leave to cool. Slowly whisk in the milk, followed by the cream, then the butter into your egg mixture. Pour batter into your prepared dish and place fruit on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes - you'll know the clafoutis is cooked when the blade of a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Bon appétit!