I picked up some delicious apricots from the village of Porreres this week. They were juicy, sweet and sour, just the thing to add loads of flavour and liven up so many of our springtime recipes. Apricots have been around forever, and ancient Romans were so impressed by this fruit’s early ripening that they took to calling it praecocium, Latin for “precocious.”

At this time of year apricots are just about the best fruit choice in local markets. Low in calories and packed with nutrients, just three fresh apricots will give you almost half the vitamin A you need for the day along with a healthy dose of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. In addition, apricots are packed with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals that damage cells. Apricots are sour-sweet in flavour with a wonderfully fragrant character and a mixture of fresh and tropical tones. They are silky smooth with a soft, velvety skin that ranges from pale yellow to deep orange. Although an apricot's colour is not always a reliable guide to flavour, its best to steer clear of very pale varieties, and always avoid wrinkled or blemished skins. The flesh should feel moderately firm with some give so purchase plump, firm apricots that are soft and juicy—they should also be eaten as soon as possible.

I often find that fresh Apricots can be improved with a little cooking. They have a great affinity to all diary flavours but also marry well with almonds, chocolate, vanilla and oranges. Apricots also work well with goat’s cheese, pork and off course lamb. One of my favourite all-time dishes is a lamb Tagine with apricots. Lamb and apricots both have a great rapport with sweet spices such as cinnamon, cumin and coriander. The intense sweetness and sharpness of the dried apricots cuts through the lamb’s fattiness and with the addition of spices, the result is heavenly. This dish can be traced back to the thirteenth century and was featured in the “The Bagdad Cookery Book in a recipe called “mishmishiya” which means apricoty!

Apricots are also perfect for a simple, classic Clafoutis. This is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. The clafoutis is dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm, sometimes with whipped cream or ice-cream.

Another local fruit to look out in May are loquats or “Nisperos” as they are known in Spain. There are many varieties, each with a slightly different appearance. Generally, the loquat is pear-shaped, with smooth dark orange to orange-yellow skin. It has soft, creamy yellow flesh with a sweet and sour taste and 2-4 large seeds in the center. The two most common varieties in Spain are the Argelino (Algar) and the Tanaka. Loquats are in season during the months of April, May and June, and are generally enjoyed raw, but because they contain loads of pectin, they can easily be made into jam or preserves.


This recipe is from my cookbook - Modern Mediterranean: Sun-drenched recipes from Mallorca and beyond.

Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 4 hours marinating

Serves 4

1kg lamb shoulder, diced

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

100ml olive oil 2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp saffron threads

750ml chicken stock (bouillon)

600g canned chopped tomatoes

120g fresh apricots, sliced

1 tsp chopped preserved lemon

A bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, mix the lamb with the cinnamon, cumin, sweet paprika and cayenne pepper, cover and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight is ideal.

2. Warm the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over a medium heat, add the marinated lamb and brown on all sides. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook gently for 1–2 minutes, then add the saffron threads, stock (bouillon), tomatoes and apricots. Bring slowly to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 11⁄2 hours.

3. Add the chopped preserved lemon and coriander (cilantro), check the seasoning and serve immediately.

Clafoutis of Apricot & Almonds

Ingredients: serves 4

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

250ml cream

100g sugar

12 apricots

50g sliced almonds

1 teaspoon corn flour

30ml dry sherry

1. Beat the yolks, whole eggs and the sugar until it begins to thicken. Add the corn flour and sherry. Mix well.

2. Bring the cream and mint leaves to a boil. Pass through a sieve.

3. Add the cream to the egg mixture.

4. Arrange the apricots in a shallow Pyrex dish. Pour the mixture on top and sprinkle with the sliced almonds.

5. Bake in a 180 degree oven for 15 minutes, until the mixture is just set. Dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream.


I love to preserve food in the form of chutney, or compota as it is known here in Spain. There’s a great deal of creative satisfaction to be had in seeing rows of shiny jars filled with delicious things, stored away ready to enliven all kinds of recipes throughout the rest of the year. It’s a great way of not wasting any of the wonderfully fresh, seasonal produce from our farm. I’m a romantic at heart and confess to wanting to keep the great tradition of preserving alive. One of my favourite compotas is this slightly spicy apricot and saffron chutney. It’s the perfect partner for terrines, duck confit, cold meats and, of course, all kinds of cheese.


1kg apricots

2 red onions

1tbsp chopped ginger

2 apples

2 red chillies

1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

1 tsp cayenne pepper

A good pinch of saffron

350ml sherry vinegar

400g light brown sugar


1. Halve and stone the apricots, then chop them into smaller pieces. Peel and finely chop the onions, ginger and apples. Place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over a gentle heat.

2. Roughly chop the chillies and add to the saucepan along with the five-spice powder, saffron, cayenne pepper, sherry vinegar and brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper, then bring slowly to the boil.

3. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and combined well. Place into warm clean jars and label.