I saw them one Saturday morning, at the market. They stayed all close together, in one big group. They came from Spain and their glowy skin looked like velvet. I should have known better, but I couldn’t resist. That’s how I ended up with two punnets of small, ripe apricots that were undeniably bland. As I said, I should have known better. I try to avoid at all costs fruit and vegetables that’s been flown in to the UK from other countries. In the colder months it’s almost impossible, unless I choose my diet to be made up exclusively of root vegetables. And let’s face it: I love parsnips, but that’s not going to happen. But when the British produce is ready, we try to stick to that.
It’s not just that it environmentally irresponsible to grow cherry tomatoes in water-poor countries such as Morocco to ensure UK supermarkets a year-round supply. The produce that ripens in a container has no taste whatsoever. The first time I bought some melon in one of those ready-made snack boxes for a train journey, I wanted to cry. It was nothing more than a cube of water with a strange texture. No flavour at all. Therefore, I have decided to avoid the unavoidable disappointment and I stopped buying summer fruit that comes from far away. That includes melons, watermelons and stone fruit such as cherries, peaches and, of course, apricots. But I’ve always had a very, very soft spot for apricots. It’s always been my favourite fruit, and the fact that its season is shorter than the peach one makes its arrival even more special. Unfortunately, this year I missed apricot season in Italy because I was there too early. So, when I eyed these Spanish beauties at the market my hand automatically grabbed two punnets and put them in the basket. You can just picture my face when I tried the first one , a mixture of resignation, self-inflicted I-told-you-so and sadness. I couldn’t even bear the thought of finishing them up, so I turned to David Lebovitz (father of great frozen goods such as this one) and turned them into sorbet. I added lavender, which works very well in frozen goods because its floral scent is somewhat muted thanks to the cold. Apricot and lavender pair quite well here, the latter giving the earthiness of the cooked fruit a needed lift. If only all bad choices could be turned into something as tasty as this sorbet, life would be delicious indeed.
In a small pot, dissolve the water with the lavender sugar on a gentle heat. Turn the heat off and leave for about 5 minutes, then pour the syrup through a fine sieve, keeping the syrup and discarding the lavender. In the meantime, wash and quarter the apricots. Return the lavender syrup to the pot, together with the caster sugar and the apricots. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, then leave to cool. Pour the mixture in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Churn the purée in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, transfer to the freezer in a freezer-safe container to firm up.
* If you haven’t got lavender sugar and want to use dried lavender, simply use 1 tsp dried lavender, warming it in the water before discarding, and then using 100 gr of caster sugar.