My father, the gentleman barber, who liked to be known as 'Andre the Great', grew several grapevines and fruit trees in our back garden, among them nectarines, apricots and peaches. The fruit was plump, succulent and full of flavour. The peaches, for instance, were the size of a tennis ball and, though dad pruned the trees diligently, sometimes we needed a ladder to reach the biggest and best specimens at the top of the tree.
Under one of the peach trees in the back corner near the fence was the compost heap, where lawn clippings and kitchen scraps were piled before being dug into the garden. And, for some reason, we had a small pet turtle that lived at the base of that tree. It was a long time ago now, and my parents and two of my older siblings are no longer around, so I can't really say why or how the turtle came to live in that spot, but it did. I can remember playing with it occasionally (when my siblings would allow it) and can still recall the smell it had and how I loved to run my little fingers over the etched outside shell. One day, apparently the turtle escaped the back yard when someone left the gate open. And that was that.
I got to thinking about my father, my siblings, the fruit trees in our garden and the little turtle after buying some white fleshed peaches grown by Harrison and Sons at Araluen in New South Wales. There were boxes upon boxes of beautiful fruit and the scent was intoxicating. I waited in a (rather long) queue to be served, by which time all that was left were a few smaller specimens. I bagged some up and handed them to the fruit seller. 'Those are seconds, I'm afraid,' the woman said, sensing my disappointment. They looked fine to me, albeit a little small, but I really didn't mind. I was offered a small slice to taste and it was quite exquisite. The flavour took me right back to sunny afternoons under the peach tree in my father's garden. I asked for a few more, knowing they were perfect for the dessert recipe I wanted to share here.
The original recipe for Pesche All'Amoretto is by award-winning Tuscan-born chef, Alvaro Maccioni, and appeared in his Alvaro's Mamma Toscana, which was published in 1998. Maccioni says the recipe came about because 'one day [he] had to produce a pudding'. All he had in the cupboard was amaretti biscuits and a basket of fresh peaches. I cut back the quantity of sugar and honey used, as well as the wine. His recipe used Vin Santo, which I have replaced with a flavour-packed botrytis, The Noble Mud Pie Viognier Roussanne 2010, made by d'Arenbergs in McLaren Vale. After slurping a few samples of d'Arenberg 'stickies', I bought a bottle of that one and the very fine 2011 Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana (yes, that's what it's called!) Sauvignon Blanc. This dessert would sit very proudly on a festive table, no questions asked. I hope you enjoy it.
PEACHES BAKED WITH AMARETTI & VIOGNIER ROUSSANNE
4 ripe white fleshed peaches, washed, sliced in half and stones removed
4 tablespoons brown sugar
10-12 amaretti biscuits, crushed in a mortar and pestle
2/3 cup The Noble Mud Pie Viognier Roussanne 2010, or a good dessert wine
1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons honey, warmed
mascarpone, creme fraiche or sour cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Place the peaches into an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the peaches. Combine half the wine with the tablespoon of water and pour that mixture over the peaches. Bake for five minutes. Remove from the oven. Spoon the crushed amaretti biscuits into the holes of the peaches. Crank up the oven temperature to 190 degrees. Combine the runny honey with the remaining wine and mix well. Pour this over the peaches and pop them back into the oven for 10-20 minutes until they are cooked, just tender and not burned. Serve with the pan juices and a good dollop of mascarpone or similar. Serves 4.
The process in pictures...
Tell me. Did you happen to have a pet turtle when you were a child? Did your parents grow fruit? What are your memories of those times. Share them with me.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.