Fine Dine At Home
The pleasure of fine at-home dining - you craft the dishes, we provide fine wines matching your creations.
May 16, 2020
Recipe: Peach Melba
Queensland’s Granite Belt, where we live, is three thousand feet up in the mountains. We enjoy a surprisingly temperate climate in an otherwise sub-tropical region. Over spring and summer, during warm days and cool nights, stone fruits reach a peak of flavour and ripeness that is difficult to comprehend for city dwellers who tend to be on the end of an eight day supply chain, ensuring they rarely get to eat tree-ripened fruit.
It begins with cherries in early November, then apricots in December, followed by a crescendo of plums, nectarines and peaches, their plumpness and fragrance carrying an insistent message to all beholders: eat me!
Right off the tree is a great way to do that. When, after days, your belly is full but still the fruit cometh, you get creative… dried, poached, glacéed, preserved, with Sauternes jelly, with cream, with ice cream, with cream and ice cream and Sauternes jelly, in a pie, on a biscuit.. Sigh! Hint: late spring/early summer is a great time to visit.
A favourite recipe around here at that time of year is Auguste Escoffier’s Peach Melba. Ideally, the peaches used for this dish should be fully tree-ripened so that, when cut in half, the hemispheres come away from the stone and the skins peel easily and cleanly.
But first! Nellie Melba was the stage name of Dame Helen “Nellie” Porter Mitchell. She was persuaded to take the name by her voice tutor and mentor, Mathilde Marchesi, a woman who knew a thing or two about marketing. This was Paris, in 1886. Nellie's career transformed from singer to opera megastar.
As explained in my recent Escoffier Blog, the celebrated chef served the initial rendition of his famous peach dessert to Nellie and, some years later when both artists were at the peak of their professional careers, he reimagined the dish and named it Peach Melba.
Here’s the original Escoffier recipe, as described in his memoire:
“Pêche Melba is a simple dish made up of tender and very ripe peaches, vanilla ice cream, and a purée of sugared raspberry. Any variation on this recipe ruins the delicate balance of its taste.
"Choose 6 tender and perfectly ripe peaches. The Montreuil peach, for example, is perfect for this dessert. Blanch the peaches for 2 seconds in boiling water, remove them immediately with a slotted spoon, and place them in iced water for a few seconds. Peel them and place them on a plate, sprinkle them with a little sugar, and refrigerate them. Prepare a litre of very creamy vanilla ice cream and a purée of 250 grams of very fresh ripe raspberries crushed through a fine sieve and mixed with 150 grams of powdered sugar. Refrigerate.
To serve: Fill a silver timbale with the vanilla ice cream. Delicately place the peaches on top of the ice cream and cover with the raspberry purée. Optionally, during the almond season, one can add a few slivers of fresh almonds on top, but never use dried almonds.”
Don’t muck about with my creations, is the underlying message. But would a great chef really tell you everything? I happily have a bob each way on that and one day, I’ll tell you why. Meantime, in my view, a few nuts go very well with this dish, as does a little flaked coverture chocolate so I include them as optional extras.
for raspberry sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, puréed
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon water (or red wine vinegar)
a strip of lemon peel (optional)
4 ripe peaches peeled and halved
icing sugar for dusting
4 large scoops of full cream vanilla ice cream (about ½ a litre)
Fresh pistachio nuts or flaked almonds (optional)
Flaked dark chocolate (optional)
4 glasses or glass dishes, chilled
For raspberry sauce:
In a small pot heat sugar and water (or red wine vinegar) without stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the lemon rind, if using it.
Stir in puréed raspberries and, over medium heat, reduce the liquid to a syrup consistency (about 5 minutes). Remove the lemon rind. Allow sauce to cool and refrigerate.
If the peaches are not perfectly ripe with loose skin, you should do as Escoffier did in his day, namely: blanch the peaches for a few seconds in boiling water, plunge them into iced water to cool. Dry and peel them. Cut them in halves and discard the stones.
Sprinkle icing sugar liberally over the peaches. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate.
If using nuts, toast them gently in a dry pan on the stove or on baking paper in the oven. Allow to cool.
In each dish, place a scoop of ice cream, arrange two half peaches on top, drizzle raspberry sauce on. If using nuts, sprinkle a few on. If using chocolate, use a potato peeler to flake two or three small pieces of coverture onto the creation to complete it. Serve immediately with WGW's Nectar and savour both for hours to come.
2006 Whiskey Gully Wines Nectar Late Harvest Colombard 350mL ($35)
Nectar is a dense wine, sweet but not overly so, which means it's perfect with Peach Melba. As an old wine, most of it's earlier apricot and apple characters have transformed into an etherial butterscotch experience, luscious in every way.
Amazing! No photos! We've been making Peach Melba in the restaurant every spring/summer for years. When I wrote this blog I looked through my photos for a magic shot of it perched high in a Martini glass... Nup, not one to be found.
So, I've chosen a couple of renditions from the web that will have to do until January 2021 arrives, when I shall swap them out for the real WGW McCoy.
Thanks to Robbie Sproule for this shot of his creation, which looks to be perfectly faithful to Escoffier's ingredients, although his presentation is possibly a little heavy on almond slivers and, understandably, omits Auguste's carved ice swan base.
Great presentation by Didier Sockeel and his team at Ganache Patisserie in Sydney. Escoffier probably wouldn't have approved of the cherry but who cares. The yum factor is definitely there.