Seasonal ingredients peak: June - August
Given that apricot season is in full swing, these sweet orange fruits should definitely be used to make your first summer specialties. Even though the mention of apricots makes us think of desserts, this is actually a fruit that can be used in a whole range of dishes. Starting with a light breakfast with cereals and yogurt to chicken or fish salads where apricots will make a perfect lunch if you add yogurt dressing and mint or basil. Apricots stuffed with goat cheese, almond slices and basil filling and then wrapped in prosciutto make an ideal delicacy for your culinary get-togethers. If you prepare ribs marinated in grilled apricot sauce, your dinner party is ready to kick off.
Apricots are traditionally used to make the best summer desserts so they’re used in pies, cakes and shortcrust cookies. Apricot jams and marmalades are the best because no fruit can match its aromatic flavour. Sacher cake, the world’s most famous cake, was created by combining chocolate and apricot jam. Considering that apricots are meaty and don’t contain much water, they’re often used to make compotes, ice-creams. You can also oven-bake them with brown sugar and cream, but apricot knedle (dumplings) are without a doubt the ultimate dessert commonly prepared in continental Croatia. Whereas normally every housewife prepares them to a recipe passed on to them by their mothers and grandmothers, we ran into a secret knedle recipe at Rural Tourism Stara Preša near Zaprešić. Biserka Jakševac, the head of the family and the head chef in the family restaurant, is renowned for her knedle. She uses seasonal fruit depending on the season and her mother and mother-in-law taught her how to make knedle.
- We have a large orchard where we grow apricots right next to our restaurant. Each year we get a good harvest. Aside from knedle, I also make apricot jam we serve with crepes. I also make blackberry, currant, apple, mulberry, strawberry, cranberry and medlar jams, but I prefer the apricot one because it has a special scent and flavour. Flour and potato ratio is crucial when making knedle. If you want them to be tender, you can’t use just any kind of potatoes. I always use white potatoes, which have a floury texture, to make knedle dough. Eggs and butter are also added to the dough which is then wrapped around the apricots. You put knedle in boiling water and when they start rising to the surface, they’re done. I always serve knedle with a butter and breadcrumb topping – Biserka explains. Her son is taking a more active role in the business and she’s particularly delighted by the fact that the entire household plays a part in all the work.
Our search for more secret knedle recipes led us to restaurant Bedem in Varaždin where we discovered another interesting dessert. The chef duo consisting of Anđelko Levanić and Zlatko Novak, who are also the restaurant’s co-owners, came up with a dessert containing flambéed apricots with basil ice-cream. Anđelko Levanić revealed the recipe:
- First we remove the kernel, then you make white sugar caramel in a pan, but you can also use brown sugar. You place apricot halves in the caramel, pour in some cognac and add fresh mint. The apricots are done when the flame subsides. We serve them with homemade ice-cream. We’re talking about a vanilla-based ice-cream to which we added fresh basil. Guests just can’t curb their enthusiasm when they try this warm and cold combination.