Every month over at the Leftover Queen there is a challenge to create a brand new dish from three specified ingredients. Apart from that one caveat, the imagination is free to run wild. This is my first entry so please be kind!
I had one of those great moments when I first saw the list of three ingredients for this month's Royal Foodie Joust. Usually, when presented with a task like this one I will be wracked with indecision and spend days agonising over the potential dishes, day and night.
If it is something really serious, like when I was auditioning for Masterchef, I cannot sleep and even when I close my eyes my busy mind refuses to stop cooking. It is like a demon chef projectionist is playing a fast moving series of images into my head. Think 'A Clockwork Orange' but with more risotto.
But not this time. Instead of being teased with indecision, the words 'tarte tatin' immediately burst into my head when I read that this months creation should contain apricots, ginger and butter.
My usual take on this classic French dish was inspired by a trip to Midsummer House and involves the addition of cinnamon, star anise and bay leaf. I've done this a couple of times before so I knew that spices worked and managed to cut through the rich sweetness of the pastry and caramel. Why not with apricots too?
These delicious little bites of juicy fruitiness are great on their own and maybe it is because they look a little like the sun but I can't eat one without thinking of a warm summer's evening, no matter what the weather outside. They are also great to cook with...
Apricot and Ginger Tarte Tatin
To serve two. Don't let the simplicity fool you - it belies a warm, summery and strangely complex burst of flavour.
4 apricots, skinned and halved
a small piece of ginger, about the size of the top half of your thumb, peeled
50g of caster sugar
50g of unsalted butter, cubed
200g puff pastry, rolled to about 1cm thickness
Preheat the oven to 200c. To peel the apricots, cut a small cross in the skin at the base of each one. Drop them into boiling water for 10-15 seconds then remove and run them under cold running water - you don't want them to cook, at least not yet. When cool the skins should peel off easily.
Melt the sugar in a heavy based, oven proof frying pan (or tarte tatin pan, if you have one) until it begins to brown. Add the butter and stir to make a caramel. Use a fine grater - a microplane is ideal - to grate the ginger into the mixture. Give it a good stir. The warm, spicy notes of the ginger should hit your nose straight away.
Place the apricot halves into the pan, flat side down and return to a medium heat. Cook them for about 3-4 minutes then turn them over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Be careful because the caramel is freaking hot and from personal experience I can say that if you get it on your fingers, you know about it.
Remove the pan from the heat and lay the pastry over the top. It should be slightly too large for the pan meaning that the edges can be bunched up and tucked down the sides so that the fruit and caramel is neatly sealed in. Cook it for about 20 minutes until the pastry starts to brown. Turn it out onto an eagerly waiting plate (again, watch out for molten sugar trying to escape and singe your little pinkies) and serve with plain yoghurt if you're feeling healthy, or vanilla ice cream if you're feeling decadent.
To size up the competition or take part, visit the site