Apricots are a delicious stone fruit rich in vitamins A & C, beta-carotene and fiber. They are thought to have originated in China but are prominently used throughout the Middle East. In India, apricots are known as khubani or jardaloo depending upon the specific region.
My Paneer Stuffed Apricots are easy to make, delicious & always a big hit among family and friends alike. This recipe can easily be made using small peaches, nectarines, figs or even dates if you prefer. Just note that cooking times will vary. This is a wonderful recipe for entertaining and can also be made well in advance.
Paneer is a non-melting Indian cheese, similar to a farmer’s cheese. It can be made very easily at home or found in any Indian grocery store. For this dish, you will need to use soft paneer (cream cheese consistency). The paneer cubes will not work for this recipe. If you do not have soft paneer, feel free to substitute cream cheese, mascarpone (Italian cream cheese), crème fraiche or even yogurt cheese (yogurt with all they whey/liquid removed). Any of these fine products will work well in this recipe.
If you wish to make your own paneer for this particular recipe, just follow the link below but in order to get soft paneer, you must use whole milk. After all, this is dessert!
PANEER STUFFED APRICOTS
1 lb fresh ripe apricots, washed & dried
1 cup of soft paneer
2 tbsp nuts, finely powdered (you can use almonds, pistachios, walnuts…
¼ cup superfine sugar (or caster sugar), you can substitute 2 tbsp of honey – to taste
good pinch of saffron soaking in 2 tbsp warm cream (or milk)
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8+ tsp cardamom powder
a few drops of extract (you can use almond, rose, vanilla, orange…)
small pinch of salt
fresh mint leaves for garnish
finely chopped nuts for garnish
For the sugar syrup:
1 cup of water
½ cup superfine sugar (or caster sugar), you can substitute 2 tbsp of honey – to taste
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of ground cardamom
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the paneer with the powdered nuts, saffron along with its soaking liquid, nutmeg, cardamom powder, extract, sugar and salt. Mix well to combine and set aside until needed.
Prepare the apricots by making a large slit and carefully popping out the pit (a small spoon works great for this task). Do not cut the apricot in half but open them up slightly. Now take a small spoon of the paneer mixture and gently stuff each apricot with a good amount but do not overstuff.
To Make the Sugar Syrup:
In a small saucepan, on low heat combine the lemon juice with 1 cup of water. Bring to a gentle boil and add the sugar. Stir until all the sugar is completely dissolved. Next, add a small pinch of cardamom powder. Stir to combine well, cook for just another minute or so and then remove from the heat completely. Set aside until needed. The syrup should have a thin watery consistency.
Now arrange the stuffed apricots (stuffed side up) in a single layer in a shallow baking dish or any ovenproof dish. Now carefully pour the warm sugar syrup over the apricots, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, garnish and serve warm. If you prefer, serve with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Instead of mint leaves, try using fresh basil. You could also add a tbsp or so of your favorite fruit jam to the paneer mixture for a delicious flavor & taste. Just make sure the jam flavor complements the apricots nicely. You could also garnish the dish with a few pomegranate seeds for a lovely burst of color and flavor.