All my life I’ve been living in a big city, first Zagreb, then Paris. These are the two cities I love the most: the history I have with and the feeling of belonging to my home town and the awe and freedom that is Paris. Lately, there is one thing or rather feeling that has been coming back to me again and again: a need to escape. To get away from the tiring city to a quiet place, a place where I could spend my time developing as a cook and photographer, grow my own garden, have a simple and quiet life, far from the city crowd. A home where I would find calmness, the quiet, the connection with nature.
When I think about home, I usually remember my childhood’s home. More often than not, I reminisce about the long summers I’ve spend with my grandparents in our small vacation house at the seaside. Yet there has always been another house I tend to go back to in memories.
My grandmother’s sister has a beautiful house with a big yard and the view on the sea. It has always been a magical house for me. Spreading on three floors, it was Ali Baba’s cave full of precious things and I, as a girl, couldn’t wait but for her to tell me that I can enter one of her rooms and look at all the objects displayed in glass cabinets or the ones carefully arranged in wooden boxes.
So many different stories lead back to this house and it’s rustic garden. In August we would sort chickpeas in the front yard of the house after an afternoon spent in the fields, legs and faces red with the dust of the Dalmatian earth. Chickens used to walk freely throughout the garden, making company to the beautiful, sweet goat who would recognise your steps from afar and ran toward you when she’d hear you coming.
Each time I would walk into that house, there was something cooking on the stove. Simple things, prepared with love and experience: manestra i bizi, chickpea soup, simple steamed swiss chard with olive oil, dark risotto or red salsa. It was in that house that I tasted my first Italian mocca. It became a sort of a ritual, to go there for a steaming cup of coffee around half past three, just before walking down the pine tree road to the sea.
It was also there where I learned how to make salsa, a thick tomato and summer vegetable sauce that you would leave to simmer for a couple of hours on the stove: red tomatoes, aubergines, onions and zucchini, all from the garden, needn’t I say. Sometimes, I would take a small dish full of sauce home with me because it was “better than grandma’s”. It was both a meal and a dessert for me. Once I would finish the bowl, there wasn’t anything else in the world I would want to eat. This way that rich sweet flavour could stay longer in my mouth.
It always smelled good in that house, and even today, every time I come there, there is that sweet smell of wood, of cooking and the sea all mixed together in one, bringing back sweet memories. Things changed with time, people grew older, but the house is still there with it’s familiar and so comforting scent.
In the back garden stands an old peach tree, the one who’s existence I somehow neglected for years. It got lost among all the figs and yellow plum that ripen so quickly in August and the majestic thick-leaved orange trees that stand firm and green even in the hottest of summers. The old branches of the peach were leaning toward the earth this year, pushed by the weight of all the fruit they were carrying. We would pick them daily, as they would ripen, to eat them straight away at the spot. I considered them too precious to be used in a cake, but I ceded finally. They were too many of them and after all the breakfast peach yoghurt bowls and cold afternoon compotes, I made this rustic galette filled with dollops of honey mascarpone and those garden peaches.
I dream of having a house like this one one day, where bread would be in the oven every morning and deep red salsa on the stove, where my children would build memories, playing around in the garden or in the kitchen, in that familiar scent of home.
Peach galette with honey mascarpone
For the galette:
230 g flour
125 g cold butter, diced
20 g ground almonds
120 g non refined castor sugar (ex Billington’s)
1 egg (keep a bit to use as eggwash)
pinch of salt
For the filling:
125 g mascarpone
3 tbsp honey
4 medium size ripe but firm peaches
You can work in a bowl or directly on a clean non-stick surface. Measure and mix together flour, ground almonds, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add cold butter cut to small cubes. Mix the flour/sugar mixture together with butter using your fingers until you obtain a sand-like texture and there are no more big pieces of butter left. Work quickly to prevent butter from melting. Once the butter is incorporated with the flour and sugar, make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the egg. Combine everything together. Using the palms of your hands drag the mixture over the surface a couple of times to well combine the ingredients. However, do not work the dough too much. Form the dough into a flat round shape, wrap it in film and leave in the refrigerator for minimum one hour (best is to leave it overnight).
Take out the dough out from the fridge and place it between two pieces of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a round shape, turning the dough clockwise while rolling. Be careful that the dough doesn’t stick to the paper too much. The dough will mostly stick if the temperature is too high and the butter in the dough starts to melt. If this is the case, place everything in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and then continue rolling until the dough around half a centimetre thick. Remove the upper baking sheet and place that side of the dough on a floured baking pan. Carefully remove the other piece of the baking paper. Place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or until you prepare the filling.
Peach and mascarpone filling
In a medium size bowl combine mascarpone with 2 tablespoons of honey and whisk to obtain a homogeneous mixture. Cut peaches in equal, 1 centimeter thick slices and sprinkle with one tablespoon of honey, mix gently being careful not to mash the peaches.
Spoon the honey mascarpone in the center of the cold dough and level it up with the back of the spoon. Be careful to leave 3-4 cm around the edges free of mascarpone to be able to wrap the sides. Place the peaches on top of honey mascarpone. Don’t worry if the pieces are not nicely arranged, galette is a rustic pie. Once you’ve placed the peaches on the dough, take the free edge of the dough lifting it up and folding onto the peaches. Once you have wrapped the edges of the dough, brush the galette with eggwash and place in the preheated oven at 180°C. Bake for around 40 minutes or until golden. Leave it to cool completely before serving.