Stefano’s legs are so long that I was worried they wouldn’t fit under our small, narrow table. He reassured me that he was used to it and, like an old-fashioned deck chair, folded himself up before extending his legs almost to the other side, which nobody minded, because it was so comical. My son Luca was young at the time, five or six, and found the scene hilarious. Also because, at around that time, we were reading the BFG a lot – a favorite scene is when the queen’s servants balance tables upon tables to make one high enough for the giant, on which they serve him 20 fried eggs and 40 slices of bacon .
Our Big Friendly Stefano played the trumpet with his long fingers. He had come round to catch up, as well as to show me how he makes pasta all’ amatriciana (no onion, guanciale, wine, tinned tomatoes, pecorino, rigatoni). Lesson over and pasta eaten, I brought out peaches for pudding. Stefano took one, peeled it, then chopped chunks of the thick, orange flesh directly into the end of his red wine. It wasn’t the first time I had seen someone do this, but it was the best time; neat and satisfying. So we all joined in, peeling peaches, plopping away, then drinking the morsels from our glasses. It is such a clear memory: long limbs and wine-soaked peaches on a hot day in our old kitchen, which I have now started to romanticise, even though in reality it was a bit of a nightmare with its blocked drains and falling-off door.
It was also Stefano who suggested making the peaches in wine in advance. Because, according to him, the world is divided into two: those who peel fruit and those who have fruit peeled for them. At the time, I tried to disagree with him, but as the years rush by, I suspect more and more that he is right. If you peel, you are probably happy to do so for the whole table, and no-peelers depend on this generosity. Which is why, when it comes to wine and peaches, this relies only on a cook who likes to peel, and it is a really lovely, summer pudding, basil and peaches making a brilliant couple.
You can use white, rosé or light red wine. Something you enjoy, keeping in mind that it is going to be slightly sweetened, that it will have fruit and basil soaking in it, and that it will be served ice-cold. The last time I made this, I used Sicilian grillo, the time before that, a rosé from Puglia, while the time before that it was a bottle of gamay. Whatever wine you choose, chill it well.
If there’s any left, return the peaches and their soaking liquor to the fridge overnight. By morning, the fruit should be absolutely sodden and slightly furry. An ideal breakfast drunk straight from the bowl.
Peaches and basil in wine
Prep 5 minutes
cooking 10 minutes
Chill 3 hrs +
1 bottle wine – white, rosé or light red
3 tbsp caster sugar
6 ripe but firm peaches
1 bunch basil, leaves picked
In a small pan, gently heat 100ml of the wine with the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool a bit, then mix in a jug or bowl with the rest of the bottle of wine.
Using a sharp knife, halve the peaches, pull out the stones, pare away the skin and slice the flesh thickly. Cut each slice in half, to make chunks, and drop these into the wine, along with the basil leaves and five ice cubes. Chill for at least three hours. Add another five ice cubes before ladling into bowls or glasses and serving.