Summer puddings are a doddle: ripe peaches torn apart and dropped into glasses of chilled muscat; strawberries, halved and tossed with passionfruit juice; melon sprinkled with mint-infused sugar. But the cook in me wants to slice and stir and bake, to feel the rhythm of a calm but busy kitchen even on a warm summer day, which is why there was both cake and a homemade fruit ice on the table this week: a sticky, lightly spiced cake with summer fruits – apricots sautéed with butter and honey; and a frozen dessert of yoghurt and summer berries.
The cake was a classic gingerbread without the treacle notes of dark muscovado and molasses, brought to the table with vanilla custard. For those whose interest runs to something tart and refreshing, there is a frozen yoghurt the colour of a traditional summer pudding.
And that classic recipe, with its layer of berries and juice-soaked bread will be around this year as usual, but the mixture of redcurrants, blackcurrants and raspberries will also be in a bowl for breakfast, used to flavour ice-cream and stirred into meringue and cream as a bells-and-whistles dessert. Any extra juice left over is very good in a glass of prosecco – a scarlet-hued mimosa.
The strawberries have been exceptional this year. I served them tossed in a sauce of crushed raspberries with a splash of framboise. (Note to self, I need more miniatures of liqueurs for such occasions.) I will not cook a strawberry, but they are dazzling on a crème patisserie-filled tart and better still in a pastry case filled with a mixture of strained yoghurt, icing sugar with the merest shake of orange flower water.
Raspberries rarely benefit from the meddling of a cook, but this week I used them, crushed and stirred into a bowl of stewed apple, as the filling for a fruit tart. The surface was crowned with more berries, arranged very neatly.
Sticky apricot, honey and ginger cake
Very much a dessert rather than tea-time cake, this is a treat cut into rounds rather than slices and served in a dish with chilled custard and warm apricots. Serves 12
For the apricots:
apricots 500g, stoned and halved
honey 1 tbsp
For the cake:
self-raising flour 250g
ground ginger 2 level tsp
mixed spice ½ tsp
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
salt a pinch
lemon zest of 1
light muscovado 125g
eggs 2, large
chilled custard 500ml
You will need a square cake tin measuring about 22cm, lined with baking parchment.
Halve and stone the apricots. Warm the butter in a shallow, nonstick pan, then add the fruit and leave to cook for 7-10 minutes over a low to moderate heat, until soft. Towards the end of their cooking time, add the spoonful of honey. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Sift the flour with the ground ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add the lemon zest. Pour the honey into a small saucepan, add the butter and the sugar and warm over a moderate heat until the butter has melted. When the mixture has simmered for a minute remove from the heat.
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk and beat lightly to combine. Pour the butter and honey mixture into the flour and spices and stir gently until no flour is visible. Mix in the milk and eggs.
Fold in half of the cooked apricots and scrape the mixture into the lined cake tin. The apricots should slide to the bottom. Put the cake in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until spongy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.
To make the icing, put the icing sugar into a bowl, then beat in the lemon juice, either with a fork or using a small hand whisk. Take it steady, only using enough to make an icing thick enough that it takes a while to fall from the spoon.
Remove the cake from its tin and peel back the parchment. Just before serving, warm the reserved apricots in a small pan and cut the cake into 16 equal pieces. Place two pieces on each serving dish and some of the reserved apricots. Serve with cream or thoroughly chilled custard.
Summer fruit frozen yoghurt
‘Tart and refreshing’: summer fruit frozen yoghurt. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer
Use fresh blackcurrants in season, but this also works very well with frozen.
icing sugar 5 tbsp
natural yoghurt 500g
Remove the blackcurrants from their stems and put them in a small pan with the raspberries and water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes or so until the fruit has burst and the juices are bubbling. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Beat the icing sugar into the yoghurt, then stir in the cold fruits and their juice. Pour into an ice-cream machine and churn until almost frozen. Transfer to a chilled container and store in the freezer.
To make the ice-cream without a machine, mix together the sweetened yoghurt and chilled fruits and stir thoroughly. Transfer to a covered plastic storage box and place in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove the lid and stir to mix the frozen edges into the middle, then return to the freezer for an hour. Repeat this several times till the mixture is almost frozen.