And breathe… My nerves have just settled after submitting a meal to Food Urchin‘s Where’s my Pork Chop challenge, now comes the seemingly endless wait to see what the outcome is. Will he like it? Is it too bland? Too spicy?
Happily, whatever the food’s like, it was a real pleasure to meet and chat to FU over a St Peter’s Honey Porter and burger in The Jerusalem Tavern. You never quite know what to expect when you meet someone, whom you’ve been corresponding with via Twitter and comment streams for a couple of months, in the flesh. In the event, it was a fun lunch and great to chat for an hour – even if tales of my cousins seemed to scare him a little.
The WMPC menu was, inevitably for me, influenced by the Levant, particularly Morocco, as this week has a very North African flavour to it. So right about now FU should be tucking into some baba ganoush, zaalouk (aubergine, tomato and herb salad), couscous, a lamb, date & almond tagine (I’ll blog about this later) and finishing off the meal with some Turkish style poached apricots stuffed with sweetened strained yoghurt and pistachio nuts.
I first came across these bright amber hued goodies in Gallipoli – a Turkish restaurant in Islington, London where they arrived unbidden just before our bill. They were a fine tasting surprise, gently and aromatically sweet with a lightly spiced, sharp syrup. Stuffed with marscapone and studded with pistachio nuts they were unusual and the perfect end to a meal – cleansing the palatte and getting you ready to face outside world.
The secret seems to be the gentle poaching of large dried apricots in a syrup infused with cinnamon, cardamom and lemon. These round off the sharp tangy corners of dried apricots with gentle aromatics while somehow adding extra citrussy-sweet zing. The contrast with the nutty pistachios and soft cream is sublime. It remains to be seen whether I have reached these heights with my yoghurty stand in (a little less creamy and slightly sharper – but still good).
Makes about 20 or so
I sweetened my yoghurt with a little caster sugar – next time I think i’ll add a little lemon juice as well. It would make a completely different beast to the marscapone but in this case the lemon would suit the yoghurt more. Otherwise, definitely go for some good quality marscapone.
250g large dried apricots
250g marscapone/strained yoghurt
6 green cardamom pods – lightly crushed (I use the handle of my kitchen knife)
Half a cinnamon stick
350 ml water
Juice of half a lemon
2 tblsp caster sugar
A handful of pistachios – roughly chopped.
Warm the water and sugar over a low heat, when it’s totally dissolved add the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods and bring to the boil.
As soon as the water starts bubbling, add the apricots, turn it down and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes. Take it off the heat and let the apricots cool down in the syrup.
Mix the marscapone/yoghurt with a little caster sugar to taste. Traditionally you would keep the pistachios to sprinkle over the top, but I stirred them into the marscapone at this point.
When the apricots have totally cooled down take each one, slit it open and create a pocket with your finger. Then stuff that pocket with the marscapone/yoghurt and nut mix, then stud the outside with a couple of whole or halved pistachios. Serve with the syrup poured over the top.