The unprepossessing Hunza apricot – Recipes from the Literary Cook


YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT’, they say (whoever the mysterious ‘they’ are). Certainly, that seems to be true for a small population of people living in Hunza, a remote, former princely state – allegedly the inspiration for James Hilton’s Shangri-La – found high in the mountains of what is today northern Pakistan.

Its inhabitants seem to live happy, healthy, remarkably long lives, some up to 140. Depending on who you want to believe, this could be down to a vegetable-rich diet, the purest of pure glacier waters, conflict-free lives, lots of laughter … or the very heavy consumption of a type of apricot native only to that region. I favour the latter (although an abundance of laughter comes close), not least because I seem to champion unprepossessing-looking foodstuffs, and the dried Hunza apricot resembles a rather wizened, small walnut, the kind you might find languishing at the back of a cupboard and quickly throw out. I’m rather partial to them, since the days I first crossed paths with them in a tiny Edinburgh health food shop behind the university, and took them home to experiment. While they used to be more widely available in the UK, and it can be a chore to find them, rather wonderfully Trinity Wholefoods (3 Trinity Street) stocks them.

I don’t have a very sweet tooth but about 150g of Hunza apricots, infused in water, along with a cinnamon stick and a star anise or two, boiled at high heat for 10 minutes and then left to simmer for as long as possible, are just gorgeous – buttery, buttery soft and toffee sweet. You must sieve the reduction – the kernels are shockingly hard – but the result is a compote-thick, heavenly pulp that can be eaten hot or cold on its own, added to porridge or yoghurt, kept in the fridge to have on toast or mixed into a cake or sauce (sweet or savoury). Oh, and the apricot kernels can be put to good use, ground up or boiled on and added to stews or batters. Some say the kernels are where the answer to life longevity lies. So, if you are what you eat, and truly desire to see in the twenty-second century, the Hunza apricot seems a pretty great place to start. As well as being delicious, of course.


Then the whole range, much nearer now, paled into fresh splendor; a full moon rose, touching each peak in succession like some celestial lamplighter, until the long horizon glittered against a blue-black sky.”
― James Hilton, Lost Horizon


Also of interest:Fava me with love – breaking bread with friends‘; ‘A little bit of cheese, please, my dear‘; ‘Soup love – all about my mother’; ‘Cooking lesson – Master of Hammer Vincent Price makes a daring curry


A version of this article/recipe appears in HIP Food, 100th issue.


This article/recipe is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do request permission. Thank you so much.