11 Feb // superlative stone fruit

I’ve been throwing out extreme phrases all year as far as food is concerned. Best burger I’ve ever had! (the fresh snapper burger at Pauanui Takeaways). Most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had! (the kimchi pancake at Little Bird Unbakery in Ponsonby). One of the top five cocktails of my life! (the watermelon vermouth number at Kensington St Social in Sydney). You get the idea. Likewise, best beach swim, juciest mango, and stone fruit being the absolute, hands down, best thing about summer.

I was in Sydney last week and my brother-in-law’s Mum brought a tray of peaches and nectarines from inland NSW, and they were so good and there were so many of them. I dripped them all down my clothes (standard behaviour) and made a couple of boozy fruit jars (ginny-peach martinis for winter, anyone?). I was also alerted to Nigel Slater’s peach pie recipe, and after making two of them can attest to the fact that it is delicious. I tweeted about it, and he replied (!) which really brought out the fangirl in me, but anyway, while you can, while peaches are in season, please, make this pie.

Once I returned home to extreme humidity, I snaffled a kilo tub of some of the last cherries of the season – they’ve had a stellar summer (in my belly) especially the big, luscious ones from Central Otago. I swear the best cherries I’ve ever had were from a roadside stall in Queenstown which I grabbed whilst stuck in traffic following a cricket one-dayer a few years ago; they really do haunt my dreams. Anyway, I nabbed a tub back here in Auckland and had an overwhelming desire to make clafoutis, the almost custardy baked tarty-type French dessert. I pulled out Ripailles, one of my all time favourite cookbooks, and made Stephane Reynaud’s recipe – very simply you beat two eggs into 125g of plain flour, add 50g of sugar, and then a cup of milk. You pour that into a greased dish filled with 500g of cherries (I pitted mine by hand but you can used cherries from a jar if you need). I deviated from the recipe with a very small grate of fresh nutmeg on top, then and baked it at 180C for 20-30 minutes. You sprinkle a little more sugar on top before leaving to cool to just above room temperature. I devoured it for dessert, then breakfast, then dessert again, the second time in bed. You’ve been warned.

And finally, completing today’s stone fruit trifecta, it’s peaches again, although plums or nectarines or apricots would work here. Why? Because you’re simply roasting them with a splash here and a crumble there and you’ve got dessert. These I made in last year in Tuscany when I was there– the last of the summer peaches got the treatment I’d learned from Nonna: scoop out some flesh, mix with a few splashes of marsala or dessert wine, add some crumbled amaretto biscuits, put the filling back in the peaches, and bake until golden. You could add dark chocolate, or coconut, or thyme, or walnuts, or you could just hit them straight up. Serve with yoghurt, or mascarpone, or whipped cream if you’re feeling adventurous. Eat the leftovers for breakfast if there are any, because pudding leftovers for breakfast really are just about, my favourite thing in the world.