I'm from Brisbane, and I live in Sydney but of all the Australian state capitals I think Hobart might be my favourite: the steep hills dotted with sweet timber houses, Mt Wellington looming large over the city, the seemingly infinite amount of water all around... There's amazing food, Antarctic icebreakers moored in the harbour, dusty op-shops bursting with treasures, and gardens barely able to contain their abundance of flowers and fruit. It's home to both an internationally acclaimed art museum, described by its founder as a "subversive adult Disneyland" and a CWA (Country Women's Association) shop selling a vast range of locally-made knits, jams and preserves. And then there are my friends, who I visited this weekend. Though the excuse for the trip was to visit the recently-opened MONA (sadly the CWA shop was shut!) no shiny new art museum stocked with thought-provoking pieces - however impressive - can compete with the pleasure of spending time with them, their delightful daughters, and the girls' various pets (three chickens, two cats, two guinea pigs and too many guppies to count). On an appropriately grey and blustery Saturday morning, we went for a long walk on the beach at Storm Bay, collecting shells and entertaining elaborate fantasies of houses on nearby Betsey Island (alas 15,000 pairs of penguins have beaten us to it - the island is their breeding ground and so is, appropriately, a nature reserve).
On the way back, we detoured to pick apricots in the backyard of some friends of theirs. The tree was so laden with fruit that the branches were literally dragging on the ground. In no time we'd filled a huge bucket (and eaten more than a few while picking) without looking like we'd even made a dent.
So while Sunday was a day of jam and chutney making, Saturday night was all about pie. Soft orange pillows of fruit wrapped in buttery pastry, served up before bed time with some cream freshly whipped by the industrial grade Kitchen Aid mixer snapped up for a bargain at a garage sale on the way home. Only in Hobart.
Warm apricot pie
Adapted from Bill's Food by the always reliable Bill Granger
If you've got a pie itch that needs to be scratched, and fast, this is the recipe for you. The pastry comes together in as much time as it takes for you to toss the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on, it rests only half an hour in the fridge, and requires neither fancy crimping nor perfect circles. There's no need for a special dish as it bakes on any old tray, whether a round pizza one, or the regular rectangular sort. And however slapdash your assembly, the finished product will present as charmingly rustic. In fact, I'd go so far as to recommend imperfection here. And what better thing to aspire to?
1 kg apricots
125g (1/2 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
25g (1oz) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar for sprinkling
Pastry250g (2 cups) flour
2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar
180g unsalted butter
5 tablespoons iced water
Cut apricots in half and remove stones. Place in bowl and toss with the sugar and vanilla extract.
Process the flour, sugar and butter together in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the iced water and process until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Roll out pastry and place it on a greased tray, allowing it to fall over the sides. Place the apricot filling in the centre of the pastry and dot with butter. Fold the draping pastry over the top of the filling, leaving some parts exposed. Brush the top of the pastry with cold water and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the pie is golden and the filling is bubbling. Serve warm with cream or ice-cream.