What’s in Season Now: Apricots
Every July I wait with impatience the arrival of my parents with their campervans. Without the restrictions that flying involve, they can bring a big basket full of Italian delicacies which I either cannot find here in Cambridge or I can only find for a hefty amount of money like pomodoriSan Marzano, the intense red and oblong tomatoes that are key to so many Tuscan dishes, particularly panzanella, and which here would cost me 0.70 Euro per tomato... no real cucina povera (poor food) for sure then!
The other ingredient that I make sure is exported from Siena is good apricots. I say good for a simple reason. Of course one can find them in English supermarkets; however, they often have none of the characteristics that I love so much, their softness and tenderness, and their taste of light brown sugar and orange blossom. Heresy to find them shivering in large fridges in plastic containers! But this is modern commerce after all, I’m afraid.
I love apricots also because they remind me of my maternal grand-mother. Every Summer she would have baked tarts after tarts filling the kitchen with a scent of honey and almond. After an afternoon of riding my bike and swing in the garden I would come rushing into the house to sit at the table with a slice of warm tart and a glass of milk. You can replace the milk with a glass of vin santo.
Below is the original recipe from Nonna Gina who had two simple secrets to make this tart taste amazing: a good amount of butter in the pastry and perfectly ripe apricots.
Make the pastry crust first ensuring that your hands are not too warm – apparently it can spoil it – and be quick at doing it as working it too much make it too sticky.
Wash and destone the apricots by cutting them into two. Leave them aside.
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips to make it resemble to breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar, egg yolk and a tablespoon or two of water and bring everything together to form a ball. Leave it in the fridge to rest for half an hour.
In the meantime, prepare the filling by mixing the ricotta with the sugar and the beaten egg and almond essence.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and use to line a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin making sure it has the same thickness evenly. Cover it with oven paper and filled with baking beans and cook at 200C for about 15 minutes until the ridges are nicely golden.
When the pastry is cooked take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for about 20 minutes. Once cool filled it with the ricotta mix and arrange the halves apricots on top. Glaze the top with apricot jam and bake for about 25 minutes.