If people could be a fruit, my maternal Nana Dorothy would have been an apricot. Our grandparents owned an orchard in the Central Otago region of the South Island of New Zealand. Pop’s apricot trees were special, as was the fruit they produced. They tasted of sunshine with a hint of savoury tartness. My memories of Nana are inexorably woven together with this small pale golden orange fruit. The blushing velvety exterior of an apricot still reminds me of her luminous complexion and whilst she was warm and kind, Dorothy also had a sharp wit and tongue when it was required.
If I close my eyes and remember those visits, I think of rosehips and grey wild thyme, whispering pines and the muted golden browns and tans of the surrounding craggy Central Otago hills. Tartan woollen blankets, bountiful stone fruit, apples, pears and the low rocky walls made of the unique local schist stone of the region. I can see Pop on the tractor amongst the variegated foliage of the fruit trees. I can hear the ear splitting bark of the cherry gun and watch the frost pots being readied when temperatures were set to drop.
Dorothy was a good cook and baker. How very grown up I felt when helping her carry the wicker baskets laden with a morning tea of something homemade down to the workers. I can see and almost smell the fat juicy sausages that Nana served with her homemade, piquant apricot sauce. Her baking tin always contained a slice or cake. She was generous with food, with her love and with her particularly joyously infectious laugh that I can still hear in my head.
This apricot slice is my homage to her. Sweet, buttery, tropically coconut and vanilla; beautifully offset by the faintly tart fruit. The apricot and almond meal are happy bedmates. I wish she was still with us so I could serve her a generous portion alongside a cup of tea and hear her laugh, just one more time. If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be? I think I too, would be an apricot.
GLUTEN FREE APRICOT SLICE
WHAT YOU NEED
185g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder
100g almond meal
135g gluten free self-raising flour
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
12 fresh apricots (500g), halved and de-stoned
1 heaped tablespoon Apricot jam to glaze
HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan-forced) and line a 18cm x 28cm lamington tin with baking paper.
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
Sift the almond meal and self-raising flour into a bowl, then stir in the coconut. Gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
Spread the mixture evenly over the base of the prepared pan.
Arrange the apricot halves cut side up on the cake batter, pressing them in slightly.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the slice comes out clean.
Whilst the cake is still hot, heat the apricot jam and brush it over the apricots.
Cool completely in the pan, then cut and serve.
Cooking Notes: this can also be served hot as a dessert with ice-cream, yoghurt or mix a tablespoon of honey into mascarpone or ricotta.
A Cheergerm adaptation of two recipes from the Taste Website. Links after photos.