I’m completely in love with this dessert.
For years I have in vain chased the apricots of my childhood; just picked, intensely ripe, every juicy bite cooked by the Provençal sun to a sweet compote. Nothing comes close, and so, for years, I have spurned apricots; sighed in resignation.
I don’t expect to resuscitate these childhood memories here in London, but I have found a recipe to rekindle my interest in the forsaken fruit.
Cooking less-than-perfect apricots in a sugar syrup is the obvious solution, you say. I agree, of course, but this method takes it a step further. Roasting concentrates and intensifies aroma while the lemon verbena elevates a potentially stodgy dessert of stewed fruit to a surprising burst of flavor.
Apricots roasted in verbena honey syrup, adapted from a recipe by Allison Parker
The original is a recipe for apricots with vanilla and chamomile, which I received, from my friend, through the unlikely channel of an email recipe exchange. I’ve transformed it in honor of the vibrant verbena plant in my garden.
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 cup water
3 small twigs fresh lemon verbena
3 Tbsps fragrant liquid honey (borage honey worked beautifully)
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
Wash the apricots, slice them in half, remove the pits.
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to the heat, add the verbena and honey, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Pick out the verbena sprigs and reduce syrup for another 5 to 7 minutes, swirling the pot occasionally making sure the sugar doesn’t start to burn.
Pour the syrup into a pan which will fit all the apricots in one layer. Place the apricots in the syrup, cut side down, and spoon a little syrup over each hump of fruit.
Roast in the oven (rack in the upper third, so the apricots get slightly bushed from the heat) for about 10 minutes. Turn over the apricots, baste with syrup, and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until soft.
Let cool and serve at room temperature, with a big dollop of clotted cream, crème fraîche, or thick yogurt.