All About Apricots: Apricot and Cardamom Cookies

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I remember when I first discovered that it was cardamoM, not cardamoN. My world was turned momentarily upside down – a bit like when you first find out that Father Christmas isn’t real. It took a good few minutes of staring intently at the final letter of the word for it to really sink in. But cardamom it is, and this versatile spice was chosen for this recipe as it goes surprisingly well with sweet things. Even chocolate. If you don’t believe me, try this gorgeous white chocolate and cardamom mousse from the one and only Nigel Slater.

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Me and Paris chose the combination of apricots and cardamom as the focus of this recipe. The delicate little pods need to be pried open and the tiny black seeds crushed in a pestle and mortar, then sprinkled over the mixture and mixed well to combine. Cardamom is a strong spice but can be very subtle when used sparingly. We decided the best choice for this recipe would be dried apricots, as fresh would be too wet. We teamed the apricots and cardamom with oats, pecans, flour and glued the whole lot together with peanut butter.

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These cookies come out more like flapjacks – given the oats and honey combination. They have a pleasingly dense, healthy texture, and are, because of dear Paris, completely vegan. They keep for a good long time, only getting more moist and gooey with time. They  make the perfect after work snack with a good cup of char.

Read Paris’ take on the cookies here, with some much appreciated flattery to go along with it.

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Pecan and Maple Syrup Granola

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The last few weeks have been oddly chaotic, given that I now don’t have a job. I have been frantically trying to fill my time – visiting friends in London and Brighton, and my Dad in Cornwall- so I don’t get too bored. I have also started looking for a place to live in Bristol, which involves rushing up at a moment’s notice to do a house viewing. I now understand that thing retired people say about not knowing how they ever had time to work.

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On the odd day where I’ve not got anything else planned, I work on a blog post. I’ve really enjoyed taking more time over them. This one, for instance, was the product of an afternoon set aside specially to play with a new ‘prop’: a piece of slate. It’s not quite big enough to be a full background on its own, so I laid it on a chair, then arranged things on top. It’s surprisingly difficult to make pecans look like they have been casually scattered– whatever configuration I arranged them in seemed to look, well, arranged.

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I am an avid granola fan, consuming it for breakfast almost every day. I pair it with some thick greek yoghurt, and sometimes some chopped banana. I keep expecting to get bored of it, but when I vary my breakfast by having toast, a little part of me wishes I were eating granola. So I thought it was high time I tried making some.  There are no rules here – feel free to add any combination of nuts and seeds that you fancy. The maple syrup can be substituted for something else syrupy, such as honey, agave syrup, golden syrup or date syrup (actually, I might try that one next time..).

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Apricot and Pistachio Flapjacks with Rose Icing

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When I get home from work, I’m usually so ravenous that the first thing I think of cramming into my mouth is a biscuit (or three). I find that the hiatus between lunch and dinner always seems more insufferably long than the one between breakfast and lunch. The other day I decided that enough is enough. So these flapjacks are a healthier snack to ‘keep the wolf from the door’, as you say if you were born in the ‘50s.

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It had always mystified me slightly how flapjacks seem to be considered a healthy option – as they contain as much butter and probably also as much sugar as the average biscuit. Maybe it has something to do with the oats, with their slow-release energy wholesomeness. I decided to add fruit to my flapjacks, to make them even more virtuous, and use agave syrup rather in place of the traditional, tooth-achingly sweet golden syrup.

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There is always a slight panic that sets in as we approach the end of summer- the need to gorge on all the fresh fruit you can, whilst simultaneously finding some way of preserving it. Stewing fruit with a bit of water and sugar – also called a ‘compote’ –is a good method. There is a bittersweet sadness to consigning bags of compote to the freezer, only to be bought out again when summer is a distant memory. This recipe uses apricot compote, made from fresh apricots, water and sugar, as a layer in the middle of the flapjacks.

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