Seasonal Fruit

16:27

APRICOTS

The time has come again for the fridge to be stuffed full of ripe, juicy, seasonal fruit. The riper it is, the cheaper it is, and it is hard to resist over-buying. Right now, apricots are enormous and perfect for eating fresh, stewing, jamming and definitely for cooking. 

Just like last year, I have so much fruit at home that I risk letting it go bad. My favourite way of using up surplus fruit is to make tarts. It is such an easy and quick way of making the most of fruit when it is at its best and so delicious at the end of a meal, enjoyed with yoghurt or cream, when steaming hot. They are so simple to make and the messier they are, the more rustic they look, which takes away all the stress of having perfectly trimmed pastry edges and worrying about holes.



Individual apricot crostatas 

I always use Ottolenghi's sweet pastry recipe as it is by far my favourite.

Sweet Pastry

165g plain flour
50g icing sugar
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
90g cold butter, cubed
1 free-range egg yolk
1tbsp cold water

-Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the butter, rubbing between fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs
-Add the egg yolk and cold water and mix until it just comes together
-Remove from the bowl and knead briefly before forming a disc shape and wrapping it in cling film
-Use straight away or keep in fridge until needed



Apricot Filling

12 ripe apricots 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
generous squeeze of lemon juice

-Cut the apricots into small pieces
-Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well
-Leave to rest while rolling out the pastry

Assembling the crostatas

-Preheat the oven to 200C
-Flour a clean surface, cut the pastry into 8 equal portions and then roll them roughly into rounds
-Spoon the apricot mixture into the middle of the pastry rounds, leaving at least an inch of space all around
-Fold the sides of the pastry up and pinch folds so that it holds
-(optional) brush the pastry with a beaten egg yolk
-Place on a baking tray with baking parchment and bake for 20 mins or until bubbling and golden







Tigelle

12:00

Market Finds

Italy is full of great markets, ranging from very smart antique ones to cheapy, bargain-bin ones. I have been managing to stock my kitchen with appliances that I already had in the UK and that I have brought over in dribs and drabs in my luggage, with spoiling presents (my ever-loved KitchenAid), with hand-me-downs from other peoples' kitchens and with finds from the brilliant markets that Italy has on offer; the most bizarre gadget being a chip-cutter that threatens to cut your fingers off as you ram its grid of blades over a potato.

This strange appliance is used to cook tigelle. It weighs a LOT as it is made of very heavy metal which provides a perfect cooking environment for the small bread disks. 

Tigelle are typical of the Emilia Romania region of Italy, specifically Modena. They are made from a simple yeasty dough which is allowed to rise for an hour before being rolled out and then cut into disks with a glass and cooked quickly in the hot metal device. The tigelle are eaten while still hot, being cut in half and stuffed with cheeses and salumi. A great way to enjoy simple food with a group of people.

Traditional recipes often include lard. The recipe that I used left this out:

Tigelle

25g fresh yeast
500g 00 flour
100ml milk
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
a generous glass of water

- Weigh the flour into a large bowl
- Crumble the fresh yeast into the flour
- Heat the milk until tepid and then add it to the flour mixture
- Add the oil and salt
- Start mixing the ingredients while adding water until it comes together into a stiff but malleable dough
- Knead for about five minutes
- Place in a bowl, cover in cling film and leave to rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size
- Flour a surface and roll out the dough until it is about 3mm thick
- Take a small glass and cut out disks in the dough, repeating until all the dough is cut out
- Heat the tigelle pan directly on the hob, on a high heat for five minutes on each side
- Place the dough disks into the pan and close the lid, allowing them to cook for about eight minutes
- Slice the tigelle in half and eat with cheese and salumi

Fried and Frazzled

11:18

I spoke too soon...

This happened. What was once my lush, green kitchen balcony, is now a collection of boxes and pots scattered with dry, brown leaf remains. 


I went away to the UK for a week and the temperatures in Italy jumped from the high twenties, to the high thirties and into the forties. The sunshine may be great for topping up a tan, but it definitely doesn't lead to successful salad growing. At least I managed to enjoy it while it lasted!

Homegrown Goodness

11:08

Pick your own salad

Before this year, I hadn't eaten anything that I have grown, not including the bushy basil and coriander that has been flourishing on the balcony. When I mean eat, I mean picking something of substance and enjoying it on my plate before scoffing it down. 



This has now happened. I was sent back from England over Easter with handfuls of seed packets. One of these being 'cut and come again' salad leaves. It couldn't have been easier to sow, grow and now pick. The speed at which the leaves come through is extremely satisfying and exciting; they sprout up within days and resemble salad leaves within a week or two. My box of leaves just keeps getting bushier.



I have been taking it one step at a time with my plants as I am terrified of killing them. Once I manage to conquer one packet of seeds, I move onto something slightly more daring and see if I can succeed. Thanks to the speedy result of the salad leaves, my next victim will be rocket, with the aim of spicing up the salad bowl a bit.