You have to hand it to those Italians. Sometimes it seems like all they do is jump into meticulously cut suits, stroll out to a ridiculously fast and well-engineered cars and drive somewhere to eat deceptively simple, yet glorious food.
I can forget the Zegna suit and the new baby Lamborghini on my miserly stipend, but fortunately we can all enjoy the food. I turned to the Italians when the first tray of new season peaches arrived the other day. Hybridizing of stone fruits like peaches and nectarines has meant that the season starts a little earlier each year. Just 10 years ago, you may have well been eating a stone as an October peach. Today, they still don't eat like mid-summer peaches, but they now ooze luscious, scented juices with each bite and remind you that winter is well and truly over.
This classic Italian recipe is based on almonds, in several forms. The idea is simple enough - make a coarse and dense mixture of amaretti biscuits, almonds, sugar and liqueur. Pack a big lump of the mix into peach halves and roast until the nut mixture is aromatic and crunchy and the peaches are soft and juicy. Slipstone peaches and nectarines are the fruit to choose for this recipe, as they cut into halves cleanly and the stone easily comes away. Pears work just as well, but you will want to roast them in a slightly cooler oven, and for a little extra time. All you need to put on the plate with them is a little crème anglaise, zabaglione or even ice cream, and you can have an up-market Italian experience without shelling out big Euro on suits and cars.
Lets get cooking.
Place the almonds onto a small baking tray or sheet and place in a pre-heated 180 °C (360 °F) oven for about 10 minutes. You don't want them to colour too much, just get them smelling nice and nutty. Remove from the oven and when cool, chop them into small chunks - around 5 mm across. Place the amaretti biscuits in between 2 sheets of parchment paper and lightly bash with a rolling pin. Don't turn them into powder - leave some nice chunks in there.
Place the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and whisk for another minute or two. Mix in the remaining ingredient and combine well. You can pop this mixture in the fridge for up to a month and have it on hand for impressive 10 minute desserts.
Heat your oven to 220 °C (430 °F). Cut the peaches down the middle and slip out the stone. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet and stuff the centre of each with a walnut-sized piece of the amaretti mixture. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes. By then the peaches should be starting to soften, and the almond mixture should be lightly brown on top, and nicely crunchy. Return to the oven for a few minutes if they aren't quite done.
Try these with a glass of Vin Santo, a combo made in heaven.