Dried apricots are a popular dried fruit that can be enjoyed on their own as a snack, or used as an ingredient in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. They are made by removing the water content from fresh apricots, leaving behind a chewy, slightly sweet and tart fruit that can be stored for months. Apricots have been cultivated for thousands of years in central Asia, and are now widely grown in many parts of the world. They are typically in season during the summer months, but drying them allows us to enjoy their delicious flavour and nutritional benefits all year round. Dried apricots are a good source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, making them a healthy addition to your diet. They are also a versatile ingredient that can be used in many ways, from baking and cooking to snacking and preserving. Whether you're a seasoned cook or just starting out in the kitchen, there's something for everyone to discover about this delicious and nutritious dried fruit.
The Nutritional Benefits of Dried Apricots
Dried apricots are not only tasty, but also packed with nutrients that offer several health benefits. They are a good source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals, and can help improve digestion, boost immunity, and promote overall well-being. Here are some of the key nutritional benefits of dried apricots:
- Fibre: Dried apricots are a good source of dietary fibre, which can help regulate digestion and prevent constipation. Fibre also helps keep you feeling full, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
- Vitamins: Dried apricots are rich in vitamins A and C, both of which are important for maintaining healthy skin, vision, and immune function. Vitamin A is also essential for healthy bones, while vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.
- Minerals: Dried apricots are a good source of several minerals, including potassium, iron, and calcium. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and maintain proper fluid balance in the body, while iron is important for healthy blood cells and preventing anemia. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth.
- Antioxidants: Dried apricots contain several antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lycopene, which can help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
- Low in fat and calories: Dried apricots are a low-fat, low-calorie snack that can help you meet your daily nutritional needs without adding excessive calories or fat to your diet.
How to Store Dried Apricots
Proper storage is essential for maintaining the freshness and flavour of dried apricots. Here are some tips on how to store dried apricots:
- Store in an airtight container: Transfer dried apricots to an airtight container or resealable bag. This will help prevent them from absorbing moisture and becoming stale.
- Keep in a cool, dry place: Store dried apricots in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Excessive heat or moisture can cause them to spoil or become mouldy.
- Refrigerate or freeze for long-term storage: If you plan to store dried apricots for an extended period of time, consider refrigerating or freezing them. Stored properly, they can last for up to six months in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer.
- Check for signs of spoilage: Before consuming dried apricots, check for any signs of spoilage, such as a mouldy or rancid smell, or a slimy or discoloured appearance. If you notice any of these signs, discard the apricots immediately.
Cooking with Dried Apricots: Sweet and Savoury Recipes
Dried apricots are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury recipes. Here are some ideas for incorporating dried apricots into your cooking:
- Granola bars: Chop dried apricots and mix them with oats, nuts, and honey to make homemade granola bars.
- Baked goods: Add chopped dried apricots to muffins, scones, or breads for a sweet and chewy texture.
- Trail mix: Combine dried apricots with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to make a healthy and satisfying snack.
- Desserts: Use dried apricots to make cakes, tarts, or puddings for a fruity and flavorful twist.
- Tagines: Dried apricots are a common ingredient in Moroccan tagines, which are slow-cooked stews made with meat, vegetables, and spices.
- Rice dishes: Add chopped dried apricots to rice dishes, such as pilafs or risottos, for a sweet and tangy flavour.
- Salads: Sprinkle chopped dried apricots over salads for a sweet and chewy contrast to greens and vegetables.
- Stuffings: Use chopped dried apricots in stuffings for poultry or game, or in vegetarian stuffed peppers or eggplants.
When cooking with dried apricots, it's important to rehydrate them first to ensure that they are soft and plump. To do this, soak the apricots in hot water or fruit juice for 10-15 minutes, then drain and use as desired. With their sweet, tangy flavour and chewy texture, dried apricots are a delicious and nutritious addition to any recipe. Whether you prefer sweet or savoury dishes, there are many ways to incorporate dried apricots into your cooking.
Baking with Dried Apricots: Cakes, Cookies, and More
Dried apricots are a great addition to baked goods, adding sweetness, moisture, and a chewy texture. Here are some ideas for baking with dried apricots:
- Cakes and muffins: Add chopped dried apricots to cake or muffin batter for a fruity and flavourful twist. Apricot and almond cake is a classic combination that is popular in many European countries.
- Cookies and bars: Mix dried apricots with oats, nuts, and chocolate chips to make chewy cookies or granola bars. Apricot and white chocolate cookies are a delicious and easy-to-make treat.
- Breads and pastries: Fold chopped dried apricots into bread dough or use them as a filling for pastries. Apricot turnovers or croissants are a tasty breakfast or snack option.
- Energy balls and bites: Blend dried apricots with nuts, seeds, and spices to make energy balls or bites. These are a great snack to take on the go, and they can be customised with different flavours and ingredients.
Snacking with Dried Apricots: Simple Ideas and Combinations
Dried apricots are a tasty and convenient snack that can be enjoyed on their own or combined with other ingredients for a more satisfying and nutritious snack. Here are some ideas for snacking with dried apricots:
- Plain and simple: Enjoy dried apricots on their own as a quick and easy snack. They are naturally sweet and chewy, making them a satisfying treat.
- Nuts and seeds: Combine dried apricots with nuts and seeds for a protein-packed snack that will keep you full for longer. Try almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds for a delicious combination.
- Cheese and crackers: Pair dried apricots with cheese and crackers for a sweet and savoury snack that is perfect for entertaining or as an afternoon pick-me-up. Soft cheeses like goat cheese or brie pair particularly well with dried apricots.
- Yogurt and granola: Mix dried apricots with yogurt and granola for a healthy and filling breakfast or snack. You can also add fresh fruit or honey for extra sweetness.
- Trail mix: Combine dried apricots with other dried fruits, nuts, and seeds to make a homemade trail mix. This is a great snack to take on the go or to pack for a hike or camping trip.
When snacking with dried apricots, it's important to keep portion sizes in mind, as they are relatively high in natural sugars. A small handful (around 5-6 pieces) is a reasonable portion size.
Using Dried Apricots in Salads and Other Savoury Dishes
Dried apricots are not just for baking and snacking – they can also add a delicious twist to savoury dishes like salads, stews, and tagines. Here are some ideas for using dried apricots in savoury dishes:
- Salads: Add chopped dried apricots to salads for a sweet and tangy burst of flavour. They pair particularly well with bitter greens like arugula or radicchio, as well as salty cheeses like feta or goat cheese. Try a spinach salad with dried apricots, goat cheese, and almonds for a simple and satisfying meal.
- Stews and tagines: Use dried apricots to add sweetness and complexity to stews and tagines. They pair particularly well with savoury spices like cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, as well as hearty ingredients like lamb, chickpeas, and root vegetables. Try a Moroccan-style lamb tagine with dried apricots and almonds for a comforting and flavourful meal.
- Grain dishes: Mix chopped dried apricots into grain dishes like quinoa, rice, or couscous for a sweet and chewy texture. They also pair well with nuts and herbs like parsley or mint. Try a couscous salad with dried apricots, almonds, and herbs for a fresh and flavourful side dish.
- Sandwiches and wraps: Use dried apricots to add a sweet and tangy element to sandwiches and wraps. They pair particularly well with salty meats like ham or prosciutto, as well as creamy spreads like hummus or goat cheese. Try a turkey and apricot wrap with arugula and goat cheese for a tasty and portable lunch option.
Dried Apricot Jam and Other Preserves
Dried apricots can be used to make a delicious and unique jam that is perfect for spreading on toast or using as a filling for cakes and pastries.
In addition to jam, dried apricots can also be used to make other preserves like chutneys, marmalades, and compotes. Here are some ideas for using dried apricots in preserves:
- Apricot chutney: Combine chopped dried apricots with vinegar, sugar, spices, and onions to make a tangy and sweet chutney that is perfect for serving with cheese or grilled meats.
- Apricot marmalade: Combine chopped dried apricots with citrus fruits like oranges and lemons to make a bright and zesty marmalade that is perfect for spreading on toast or scones.
- Apricot compote: Simmer chopped dried apricots with water, sugar, and spices to make a soft and juicy compote that is perfect for serving with yogurt or ice cream.