Fresh Figs


The Joy of Picking and Eating

Growing up with a fig obsessed mother, (the fruit itself, soaps, candles, bath oils, the works) I have come to think of the fruit as a rare and wonderful thing. The rarity of finding good, ripe figs in english supermarkets also helps along this myth.

This summer I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's house in the countryside just outside Ferrara for a sunny afternoon and it just so happened that they have an enormous fig tree that was dripping with fruit needing to be picked. 
Picking figs sounds much more romantic than the reality of the operation. Figs are seriously sticky; they ooze a white milk that smells heavenly but clings to skin and clothes and refuses to wash off. Figs also attract insects. Lots of insects; bees, wasps, ants, flies and more. However, balancing on tip toes, barefoot, trying to avoid fallen figs that are being devoured by wasps while getting dripped on by sticky fig milk is definitely worth it when you have a bowl full of them to show for it at the end.

Peach Crostata


Seasonal Produce

One of my favourite things about loving food and living in Italy, is the availability of seasonal produce. Emilia Romania is an extremely fertile region and home to parmesan and balsamic vinegar to name a few. When going to markets or local fruit shops, the cheapest things to buy are those in season, meaning it is hard not to buy and eat these tempting products. 

The downside to this is that I have only been successful in finding coriander once in the year that I have been living here. I am however extremely lucky enough to have a mother that brings over coriander plants in her hand luggage! 

June and July are months where peaches, nectarines and plums are everywhere. They are beautifully ripe and almost always overripe, never needing to be left in a fruit bowl for a few days, and definitely shouldn't be as they go bad if not enjoyed within a day or two.

I happened to receive two trays full of juicy, ripe peaches and nectarines, white, yellow and dwarf, in two days. One person cannot consume this amount of ripe fruit before they go over. I ended up stewing lots of them to eat with yoghurt, but still had too many taking up my limited kitchen space. So I looked to a tart recipe and found a delicious peach and amaretto crostata that I adapted.

Ripe Peach and Amaretto Crostata

(My favourite sweet pastry recipe that hasn't failed me yet is Ottolenghi's.)

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, but avoid over-squidging.

-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.

Peach and Amaretto Filling

4 tbsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch sea salt
6-8 ripe peaches
2 tbsp lemon juice
two handfuls crushed amaretti biscuits
1 egg

-Preheat the oven to 200C.

-Slice the peaches and place in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and lemon juice making sure that the peaches are evenly coated with the mixture.

-Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness on a sheet of baking parchment.

-Roughly spread the crushed amaretti biscuits over the pastry, leaving a 3cm edge all the way around.

-Place the peaches on top of the biscuits and pour over any remaining juices. 

-Fold the pastry up over the peaches and secure by overlapping the pastry and pressing into place.

-Brush the pastry with a beaten egg.

-Transfer the tart onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 or until golden and bubbling.

I didn't manage to get a photograph of the finished tart as it was gobbled up within minutes! This was such an enjoyable way to use up never-ending peaches and my first ever rustic crostata.