I never thought I would see the day but my better half and I are arguing over Tarte Tatin. He sneaks slithers whilst I’m out exercising; again. This upping of my exercise regime allows me an additional piece beyond the obligatory test slice. Despite spending an hour out at a Zumba class this evening I am planning a sprint (x3) up one of the hilliest streets in town tomorrow morning so I can have some more for breakfast. We are utterly in love with my latest creation.
I am fairly sure this food marriage of apricots and lavender is not unique, but a quick surf about only revealed lavender soaked in milk and then converted into shortbread or cupcakes, certainly not used to flavour sugar syrup. I didn’t even strain the lavender flower heads and this does not seem to matter. The aromatic scent cuts through the sweetness of the fruit in such a heavenly way you are barely conscious of them in the finished dish and I believe they add some charm to the appearance.
I have always had a bit of a thing about them, I pop the ready-to-eat variety moorishly and adore dishes such as tagines with all that heat and spicy sweet. Despite not having a particularly sweet tooth, I get my inevitably need for some sort of sugar fix from them on a regular basis; bitter dark chocolate covered apricots is almost my most favourite flavour combination behind liver with a tomato and mushroom sauce, but more of the latter soon…
22 years ago this week I set out on my Italian culinary adventure, described on the ‘About Sarah’ page, and one of the first food related delights I came across greeted me as we drew up to the house for the first time. In the garden, almost next to the garage, was an apricot tree. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before that some countries have such luxuries but I still remember the double take I took as I realised that for this family their windfalls weren’t apples, pears or plums. Unbelievable. I could pop out whenever and eat as many of the ripest, juiciest fruit as I could manage. The parents of my charge for 2 months were more or less nonchalant about the situation. No big deal. But I suppose if you always virtually live in the garden of Eden, you would be.
Anyway as transportingly delightful as these memories are, on with the recipe.
You will need a 9″ sandwich tin or deep sided pie dish, non stick for preference. Don’t use anything loose bottomed as you will be hopelessly scraping baked on sugar syrup residue from the bottom of the oven otherwise.
Start off by making the pastry, or to be quite honest you could buy sweet short crust from the supermarket. If you are making it you will need: 100g self-raising flour, 50g diced, cold, unsalted butter, 1 tbsp of icing sugar, 1 egg yolk, 2 tsp of cold water. Sift the flour and the icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter, rubbing it into the flour with your fingers. Add the egg yolk and a teaspoon of water and with a table knife, start the combining process. Once you have made some progess dive in with your hands and swiftly bring the dough together. Add the second teaspoon of water if you need it to give a working dough, not too sticky. Once you have a smooth ball of pastry, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for ½ hour.
Meanwhile make the sugar syrup. Place 75g of caster sugar and 75g of unsalted butter in a non-stick saucepan with 3 sprigs of lavender (preferably flowering) and gently heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has started to dissolve, allow it to bubble a little and stir regularly. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse until the pastry is ready.
Cut 10/11 firm but ripe apricots in half, remove the stones wash and dry. Once the pastry is ready, remove from the fridge. Heat the sugar/butter/lavender mixture again as a sludge is likely to have formed in the saucepan until the mixture is bubbling again, stirring regularly, remove the lavender stems and finally pour into the bottom of the pie dish. Arrange the apricot halves, cut side up so that the smooth hemispheres are uppermost when you turn the dish out once baked, and at this point turn the oven on to 200°C/Fan 180°C.
Roll out the pastry to give roughly a 9″ diameter circle. As you can see I usually go rustic in these situations and don’t worry about rough edges, but you can always use a plate to cut round if you wish. Plonk the pastry over the fruit and tuck in round the edges. Pop low in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. I know the oven isn’t up to temperature at this point but I think it helps cook the apricots thoroughly.
Once the 25 minutes is up you should have a golden brown baked pastry top (or bottom) and much sugary bubbling. Remove from the oven and try carefully to decant the sugar syrup into a waiting saucepan before inverting the tart using the presentation plate. This is a bit of a messy business, but not to worry. If the fruit has slid up to one end in the process just carefully shove it back into position. (I did and look how lovely mine turned out).
Boil the sugar syrup in the saucepan until it thickens some more and then drizzle over the tart. Serve warm. We had it with honey and ginger flavoured fancy yoghurt from Waitrose, but creme fraîche or cream or ice cream would work well.
N.B. I THINK it is OK to eat the flower heads and in my limited research some recipes definitely didn’t remove them, but you can always pick them off as you eat if you wish.