I no longer live in Oxford but on my rare visits back to my alma mater. I make it a matter of urgency to return to Moya, an unpretentious Eastern European restaurant whose food remains some of the best I have ever tasted. My main course is of little importance, as long as it leaves. Room for the apricot dessert dumpling with the poppy seed butter sauce.
Instead, you’d best try it for yourself – this is the closest I could get to a recreation, although I heartily advise you to seek out the original, too. I’d recommend serving one or two dumplings per person as a dessert (depending on what you’ve eaten beforehand), but they also reheat well in a steamer, should you be unable to consume the entire batch in a single sitting. Out of season, this recipe works quite well with tinned apricot halves in syrup, and you can even try a dollop of apricot jam instead of the whole fruit (omit the sugar cubes in that case).
For the dumplings
125ml whole milk
finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
270g plain flour
90g golden caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
15g fresh yeast
10 ripe apricots
10 sugar cubes (I prefer brown for the flavor, but white also works)
icing sugar, for dusting
For the poppy seed sauce
5 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons caster sugar
How To Cook It
First, make the dumplings. Put the milk, butter, and lemon zest in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to just below the boil, until the butter has melted. Leave the mixture to cool to body temperature, then beat in the egg and vanilla paste (it is important to leave the mixture to cool as otherwise, it will kill the yeast).
Put the flour and caster sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large bowl if you plan to make the dumplings by hand. Add the salt to one side of the flour mixture in the bowl and crumble the yeast onto the other. Make a well in the center and add the milk mixture.
Using the dough hook or your hands, bring everything together to form a sticky dough. Knead using the dough hook, or your hands on an oiled work surface, for about 10 minutes, until you have a soft, elastic dough that is slightly sticky, but not wet. Try to avoid adding more flour unless really necessary.
Put the dough back in the bowl if necessary, cover with a clean tea towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, cut the apricots in half and remove the stones. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or non-stick silicone.
Apricot & Pistachio Clafoutis
Once the dough has risen, divide it into 10 pieces of about 50g each. Take each piece and roll it into a ball in your hands, then flatten it into a circle about 5mm thick. Take two apricot halves and place one half in the center of the circle, cut side upwards. Place a sugar cube in the center of the apricot, where the stone had been. Sandwich the other half of the apricot on top of the sugar cube.
Bring the dough circle upwards around the apricot, so that it is fully enclosed in the dough, and pinch the ends together to seal, to give a uniform ball of dough with an apricot inside. Roll the ball gently in your palm to smooth over the sealed end. Set the dumpling aside on the lined baking sheet, and repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough, apricots, and sugar cubes.
Once you have shaped the dumplings, leave them to rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes. Prepare a metal or bamboo steamer over a pan of simmering water (if using bamboo, you may want to line it with greaseproof paper to avoid bits of dough getting stuck onto it and making it a nightmare to clean). Steam the dumplings for 20 minutes, until the dough is puffed up, fluffy, and slightly shiny on the surface.
Just Try It
While the dumplings steam, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. Grind the poppy seeds in a spice grinder or powerful blender (such as a Nutribullet) until you have a dark, slightly moist mixture that begins to stick together (it shouldn’t be a paste, though). You can do this with a mortar and pestle, but it will take more effort and you will probably need to do it in batches to avoid seeds pinging out all over your kitchen. Stir the ground seeds into the butter along with the cinnamon and caster sugar. Keep the sauce warm on a very low heat until you’re ready to serve.