There were many highlights to our Italy adventure but one of my favourite discoveries appeared in the garden just outside our apartment in San Benedetto.
We took a small apartment in the grounds of an ‘agritourism’ farm set in the mountains of Emilia Romagna where we arrived as weary travellers on a sunny saturday afternoon and our host greeted us with free wine before showing us to our home for the next 4 nights.
The apartment was small and almost perfectly formed but we planned on spending our time outside, relaxing by the pool and eating alfresco. So once our bags were dropped we set about exploring the grounds, beginning with the garden.
The garden had many hidden treasures, plenty of fragrant herbs and flowers including lavender, sage and thyme, apple trees with the beginnings of fruit getting ready for autumn and trees bearing what appeared at first glance to be suspicious red berries. “Are those cherry trees?” I asked our host who confirmed that they indeed were and went on to describe them as “Amerene” or “bitter cherries” it was then that the penny dropped, our garden was filled with at least half a dozen sour cherry trees with just ripe fruit.
Having only ever encountered Amerene dried and packed into vacuum sealed bags on supermarket this was pretty exciting and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bake with these little beauties. Self catering always presents interesting challenges when it comes to cooking, we were of course without scales, whisks, a sharp knife or a fully functioning oven, so this recipe was developed without these tools and the question of what to make became a difficult one as it needed to be kept simple. Never the less I was determined that there would be dessert and it would include our newly discovered amarene.
The peaches were acquired from the local supermarket in San Benedetto, a modest store – imagine your local co-op but fill it with freshly baked sourdough loaves, freshly made pasta, every variety of cheese you could hope for and all those illusive vegetables you can never track down such as courgette flowers, aubergines the size of your head and heritage tomatoes, all in a shocking array of different sizes. Yes, we ate like kings in Italy, they just do food so well.
To Make Sour Cherry and peach crumble you will need
- 2 peaches
- 100g sour cherries
- 2 sprigs lavender
- 180g honey
- 200g butter
- 130g semolina
- 300g plain flour type ‘0’
- 2 sprigs thyme
- lavender and sage flowers to garnish
- yoghurt to serve
Remove the stones from the cherries and slice the peaches, mix together with 80g of the honey and the flowers from the lavender sprigs. Place all together in an ovenproof bowl and set aside.
Place the remaining honey, butter, semolina, flour and the leaves from the thyme sprigs together in a bowl and rub the ingredients together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Scatter the crumble mix over the top of the prepared fruit and place in an oven pre-heated to 160°C. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
to finish, scatter over the sage and lavender flowers and serve with yoghurt.
This is a simple dish that celebrates fruit, it’s definitely best enjoyed in the sunshine!