I have a dream…
Yes, I have a dream, and it smells of ripe fruit. I want an orchard.
A few years ago, we planted a dozen fruit trees in the olive grove, local species and heirloom varieties, investing in hope and patience. It’s been three years now, but they are still small, saplings more than trees. They give us – if everything goes well – two or three fruits every summer.
Maybe one day my children will experience the luxury of walking barefoot in an orchard of trees laden with fruit, surrounded by the buzz of bees and the sticky smell of jam. They will stretch a hand and pluck a peach, give it a bite and feel the warmth of the sun that melts into juicy pulp.
At the moment, though, what we can do is monitor the progress of each twig, cheering for miniature pears and apples shyly peeking out through the leaves.
Then there are two apricot trees.
They have always been there, along the edge of the olive grove, since I can remember. They are tall trees, that make a consistent shadow. Every other year, they are loaded with blushing apricots so that, if you look at them from afar, they take on an orange hue.
When the year is good for apricots, my dad makes a scarecrow to keep the starlings away and my mum collects wooden boxes when she is shopping at the market. The apricots ripen all at once, so from day to day we fill dozens of boxes of fruits, firm, velvety, warm for the summer sun. When ripe, apricots are both sweet and tart, the perfect symbol of a young and innocent summer.
We make jam, we preserve apricots in syrup. We dry them. But above all, we give them by the box to friends and relatives.
This year, my mum made most of the work, I only canned some jam for a winter crostata and a few jars of apricots preserved in syrup. For the jam, I followed this old recipe, substituting cardamom with lavender, while if you want to preserve apricots in a lemony syrup, this is the recipe.
Would you like something to eat? Something to nibble? Apricots, soaked in honey? Quite why, no one knows, because it stops them tasting like apricots and makes them taste like honey… and if you wanted honey, you could just… buy honey. Instead of apricots. But nevertheless, they’re yours if you want them.
Every time I think about preserved apricots, my mind goes to this scene in Notting Hill, where a bumbling Hugh Grant offers some apricots, soaked in honey, to Julia Roberts. In that case, all you could taste was honey, while with these apricots preserved in syrup you have the sweet and tart taste of early summer.
The apricots, quickly rinsed and pitted, are preserved in a syrup made of water, sugar and lemon zest. It is even faster and more immediate than making a jam, and I must admit that, in the pantry, these are among the most beautiful jars.
How do you eat them?
In winter, enjoy them with your yogurt along with some roughly chopped nuts – I’m thinking about pistachios -, but also use them as a decoration for a crostata alla crema, a shortcrust shell filled with vanilla pastry cream. They are extremely good on their own, served on a saucer with silver cutlery as an elegant ending of a meal, but also balanced on a toast, with some goat cheese, a sprig of thyme and a few rounds of black pepper, as an appetiser.
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) apricots, not too ripe
- 800 ml (3.38 cups) of water
- 400 g (2 cups) of sugar
- 1 organic lemon
- Wash the apricots, cut them in half and remove the stone.
- In a saucepan, pour the water and the sugar, then add the lemon zest cut with a potato peeler. Put the saucepan on medium heat and simmer until the sugar has completely melted, turning into a syrup.
- Arrange the halved apricots, cut side down, in two large jars. Try to fill all the space.
- Pour the still hot syrup over the apricots. Wait about half an hour before closing the jars, to see if you need to top up the jars with more syrup. The apricots must be completely covered.
- Now place the jars in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the jars cool down completely before removing them from the water.
- They can be kept in the pantry for more than a year.
The world of podcasts
As soon as I entered the kitchen, I placed the wooden box on the table, and even before taking the cutting board and a knife to start preparing the apricots, I picked up the phone and scrolled through the recent podcast episodes I had downloaded to decide what to listen to. For some years now, listening to podcasts has become a habit when I’m in the car, when I’m walking in the countryside or at the gym, and when I’m in the kitchen, dealing with repetitive activities like pitting cherries, or apricots, or cleaning beans and artichokes in spring.
After years of listening to podcasts, in February Tommaso finally convinced me to launch our podcast, Cooking with an Italian Accent: since then, we already released 15 episodes. With each episode, we learn to better manage this new instrument: the mixing and the microphones for him, the times and the voice for me. The accent is always the same, distinctly Italian even if the podcast is in English. But after all, it is precisely who we are.
When we launched the podcast, we got caught up in the enthusiasm of the novelty, so now, in the middle of summer, when there are plenty of opportunities to spend some time listening to a new episode, I thought I’d give you some more details on the fabulous world of podcasts.
What is a podcast?
Podcasts are episodes of a program available on the internet. Think of the radio and the programs you like best: with podcasts you can listen to the episodes whenever you want, where you want. They are like articles from a blog, that you do not have to read, you can just listen to them: there are stories, interviews, essays… they are a way to keep yourself informed and entertained, to learn and to have fun.
Where do you listen to podcasts?
To listen to a podcast you generally need a program or an app for audio reproduction (Music Player). The apps dedicated to podcasts give you also the opportunity to search the entire catalog of podcasts available based on keywords and themes. You can register for free so as not to miss any episodes of the podcasts you like. In this way, the apps become aggregators, the main tool dedicated to Podcasts.
The main programs/apps are: Apple Podcast for Apple, Google Podcasts for Android, Spotify for all platforms (mobile + desktop).
My favourite food-related podcasts
There are now podcasts on the most varied topics, from current affairs to politics, from gardening to philosophy, from creativity and female entrepreneurship to photography. Just like on a blog, you learn to recognize the voice and style of every single podcaster, the speakers become like friends, as they are there, talking with you, in a private and intimate dimension. You laugh and you are moved to tears, and with some podcasts you find yourself hungry, craving for a barbecue or to knead a pizza while you are still stuck in traffic.
Apparently the podcasts will be the 2020 revelation.
For me, they have already been a pleasant habit for a few years now, an educational and entertainment moment that I choose, which allows me to be intentional and focused, but also to spend carefree moments and forget about the kilometres walked on the treadmill. I had been thinking about this post for months, and finally, in response to your questions, via email and on Instagram, I’m listing those that are my favourite podcasts related to food. Which are yours?
The BBC Food Programme
The first podcast I listened to, the one that every single time leaves me amazed, intrigued, hungry, enriched. Sheila Dillon and Dan Saladino take you around England and the world, speak with chefs, producers and cookbook authors, always with a fresh, investigative, never predictable approach. Then, we are talking about a BBC program, so needless to say that audio and sound effects are flawless. Listen to it here.
Radio Cherry Bombe
Cherry Bombe is a magazine that celebrates women and food. The podcast is no different. Each episode is an opportunity for brilliant conversations with women who are a source of inspiration: cooks, writers, food writers, authors of cookbooks, producers. Women that make a difference. There are men, too, as in the episode with Jamie Oliver. Do yourself a favour and listen to that. Learn more about it here.
- 215, Ruth Reichl & The River Café’s Ruth Rogers in Conversation
- 202, Samin Nostrat and Nigella Lawson
- 190, Being Jamie Oliver
Keep Calm and Cook on
Julia Turshen is a food writer and an award-winning author who has published Now & Again (nominated as Best Cookbook of 2018 by Amazon), Feed the Resistance (nominated as Best Cookbook of 2017 by Eater), and Small Victories. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Saveur. Now she also has a podcast, Keep calm and cook on, one of the most committed and activism oriented ones, with a strong sense of community.
After the first episode I grew fond of Julia’s warm and reassuring tone of voice. I like to listen to her interviews and conversations, and to the answers she gives to listeners’ questions on every aspect of food and cooking. Listen to it here.
- 25, Does the world need another song? On cookbooks with Matt Sartwell
- 21, Vallery Lomas: It’s complicated
- 20, It’s all about timing with Mona Talbott and Kate Arding
The Food Talks – Honey and Co.
Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer are the soul of Honey and Co, – a restaurant, a grill house, a food store, an online shop, a catering business, three cookbooks on Middle Eastern food, and a podcast, The Food Talks. A lively, animated podcast recorded in their Honey & Spice store in front of a live audience, with interviews with cookbook authors and food producers. Read more about it here.
Bonus – More podcasts I like.
- Simple Pleasures, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Listen to A conversation with Nigella Lawson
- Diana Henry’s At the kitchen table. Listen to A conversation with Ruby Tandoh
- Gastropod. Listen to The Great Gastropod Pudding Off, with my friend Regula Ysewijn
On Instagram you suggested so many new podcasts that I could spend a year listening to them: it was practically impossible to list all of them here in a blogpost, so Tommaso collected them all in an Excel that you can find here.
Our podcast. Cooking with an Italian Accent
Our podcast is in English, but with an Italian accent.
We talk about Italian, seasonal, everyday food, the food you cook for your family but also that of special occasions. We talk about memories and traditions, of landscape, producers and Tuscany. Sometimes I welcome you to the kitchen to cook a recipe together, while other times we comfortably sit in the living room, to have a chat with friends. We recorded conversations with Judy Witts Francini, my mentor for cooking classes, and Tessa Kiros, a friend and one of the food writers I admire the most. Soon it will be the turn of Luisa Cipolla, of the agriturismo Il Rigo. And many more friends are on the list.
Have you already listened to it? Which is the episode you liked the most? Would you like us to deal with some particular topics?