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Poached Apricots with Vanilla Syrup

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Serves: 4
350g / 12 oz sugar
1 lemon
2 vanilla pods, split in half
24-36 dried apricots, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
50g / 2 oz chilled unsalted butter, diced
mascarpone cheese, to serve

In a pan, gently heat 600ml / 1 pint water and the sugar, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.

Pare the rind from the lemon and cut it into thin strips. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add to the pan with the rind. Bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.

Add the vanilla pods to the pan and stir well, then add the apricots and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Strain through a sieve into a clean pan; set the apricots and pods aside. Bring the syrup to the boil and boil for 2 minutes until it has slightly thickened. Increase the heat and gradually whisk in the butter. (Don't let the syrup get too thick; add a few tablespoons of water, if necessary.)

Place 6 to 9 apricots on each plate and top with a piece of vanilla pod, if you like. Spoon over the vanilla syrup.

Serve immediately, with spoonfuls of mascarpone.

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