I've moved into a new place. After searching for months for somewhere in campagna (the countryside) I have finally found something. Rented places in the countryside are harder to come by than you might expect, as the majority of people renting (young professionals) would obviously prefer to be in town. But I have a dog and a cat and an anti social nature to think of, and I wanted some open space so I could finally begin growing things and living most of my life outside, which is really all I dream of. Now I just have to see if I can construct an outdoor kitchen too, but that's an ongoing project.
The place I have found used to be an agriturismo, it's pretty run-down, of course, like almost everything here, but it sits in the middle of an olivetto with fig trees lining the path as you enter through the blue gates. The owner is also my doctor, in a strange twist of fate, and she has split the place into 4 apartments, one of which is mine in exchange for a small sum per month, help with the olive harvest, and a handful of English lessons thrown into the bargain. The house comes complete with a tortoise, which I have named Ptolemy, at my mum's suggestion. Ptolemy (silent P) was one of Alexander the Great's generals (she tells me). I also have a back veranda where I do almost everything (writing, reading, painting), which has faded, striped canvas blinds like a Gelateria. That, along with a tiny patch of ground where I can plant things (and the cat can dig them up), is enough to keep me pretty happy.
The fig trees, back when I arrived in February, looked barren and grotesque, with their leafless branches, faded-grey bark, and strangely lumpy forms. Now they are a riot of green, smothered with leaves of all shades from Lime to Forest, both miniature and giant jostling for space alongside each other.
I've used fig leaves before in ice cream, in a panna cotta (recipe coming) and even to wrap fish for barbecuing, but I wanted to try something new, so after a brief Google I stumbled across this intriguing recipe by Thom Eagle, a chef and food writer I already admired.
Fig leaves have a flavour which is somewhere between sap, dessicated coconut, and a freshly picked fig. It's a flavour of which I am fond, and I can imagine it would be delicious in a drink.
I have yet to taste it, because it has to steep for 5-6 days, but I'll let you know how it goes. I added lemon because I am (apparently) incapable of following a recipe without adding citrus. Proximity to excellent Citrus is, after all, one of the best things about living in Italy, so it would be a shame not to make the most of it.
(before you sigh and roll your eyes thinking woefully that you'll never be able to source fig leaves, let me reassure you that fig trees are everywhere. Growing wild in parks, overhanging people's gardens etc. They rarely fruit in the UK but they always have leaves, so have a look around your neighbourhood)
7-8 fig leaves (washed and torn up)
peeled zest of 1 lemon
1 bottle of dry white wine (I used Vermentino - nice and almondy)
Poke the torn leaves into a large glass jar and pour over the sugar. Add the strips of lemon zest and pour over the vodka and the wine. Close the jar and shake well to dissolve the sugar. Leave in a cool place for 5-6 days. Strain and bottle. Enjoy over ice or mixed with soda water for a spritz.