Italian Inspiration


I’ve never been much of a one for sightseeing, and have always felt that you can gauge a country’s culture as much by its food as by its crumbling ruins.  As a child, my parents would look on in wonder at some ancient Greek temple whilst I would be quietly thinking to myself “what a tip….when can we get to the nearest bakery” for me to sample my 20th piece of Baklava that week!


So I was rather taken by surprise at my reaction on a recent trip to Florence.  As my girlfriend dragged me to the Piazzale di Michelangelo that overlooks the city the view that unfolded left me literally dumbstruck. Florence seen from this viewpoint is as overwhelming to the emotions as the Duomo is to the rest of the city.  Even I cannot deny that a building originally conceived in 1296, which took over 164 years to build and still stands in all its glory today, is mightily impressive.  Down in the small city streets, losing oneself in a daydream is easily done, especially with the aid of a refreshing Peach Bellini or two. Prosecco (the sparkling wine which is the base for a Bellini) is a Venetian product not a Tuscan one but this hasn’t prevented the Florentines from adopting it with enthusiasm and it seems so aptly to suit the mood of the city.  With an unseasonal 35 degrees basting the piazzas, glasses of ice cold Prosecco gave strength to your ever flagging correspondent on his 6 hour sightseeing marathon.  Florence did give me a new perspective of the joys of ancient monuments, nevertheless true to form my focus was always on where I might find Florence’s finest Gelateria!


Inspired by the Bellinis I have conjured up the essence of these sublime tipples in the form of a dessert. 


Prosecco Jelly, Peach Salad and Orange Blossom Madeleines

Serves 4


425ml Prosecco
3.5 gelatine leaves
75g + 15g of sugar

4 ripe peaches

Squeeze of lime

Few finely shredded mint of basil leaves



8 quality bought madeleines (or home made ones if you have the time – sorry but there isn’t enough space for a recipe here)

Sprinkle of Orange Blossom Water


Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. Gently heat (do not boil) 75ml of the Prosecco with 75g of the sugar.  Add the softened gelatine leaves to the warm Prosecco mix and then transfer to a jug and pour in the remaining Prosecco, mix very gently and pour into 4 Martini glasses.  Place in the fridge to set.


Meanwhile remove the flesh from the peaches, remove any skin, finely dice the flesh, sprinkle over the 15g sugar and a squeeze of lime. Leave in the fridge. If not using Madeleines you can add a drop or two of the orange blossom water to taste.


If baking your own Madeleines add orange blossom water to the mix, if using shop bought ones sprinkle with a little orange blossom water just before serving.


Remove the set jellies and peach dice from the fridge 15-20mins before serving.  Add freshly chopped basil/mint to the peach mix.  Spoon the peach mix evenly on top of the jellies.  Place each Martini glass on a plate with 2 Madeleines per plate.


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© Ben Axford 2021