Peach Melba is the perfect dish to celebrate three of the wonderful things about summer: ripe golden peaches, ruby red raspberries, and ice cream. It is also a dessert that my mother enjoyed eating, so it holds a sentimental place in my heart, although I'm much more of a Poire Belle Helene person myself. Named after an Australian singer, Dame Melba, and created by the famous French chef Escoffier, this can claim to be a bit more grown up ice cream sundae and something worthy of a dinner party table.
In the recipe below, you get the contrasts of sweet and tart and creamy and crunchy. This is a bright way to end any meal or for an afternoon snack, as mine was today. I served it in a bowl, but it would be really beautiful presented to your guests in a wide-mouthed champagne glass or dessert cup. Drizzle a little raspberry sauce on the bottom, add the ice cream and peaches, and then drizzle some more sauce over the top. Sprinkle the almonds over everything and eat.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Serving Size: 4 portions
1/4 c. almonds, blanched and slivered
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vanilla sugar*
1/4 c. sugar
4 peaches, cut in half
1 c. raspberries
1 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 T. sugar
1 pint top-quality vanilla ice cream
Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place almonds on shallow baking tray. Put in oven and let toast for about ten minutes until lightly golden brown. Check on the almonds a few times in between steps with the peaches to make sure they don't get too browned or, worse, burnt.
While the almonds are toasting, prepare the poaching liquid for the peaches. This is a simple syrup, which is water and sugar cooked together in equal amounts. Put sugars and water in saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugars have dissolved and the liquid is starting to bubble a little bit. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
Place the peach halves in the syrup cut side down and pour a couple of spoonfuls of the liquid over the peaches as they cook for three minutes on that side. Then, turn the peaches over to the skin side and let them cook for another three minutes. Scoop the peaches out and put on a plate to cool. By this time, the almonds should also be out of the oven and set aside to cool. When the peaches are not too hot to handle, take a knife and gently lift off the skin, leaving the smooth fruit. The skin should come off easily.
While the other parts of the dish are cooling, take out a food processor to make the raspberry sauce. Place the raspberries, lemon juice, and 2 T. sugar in the bowl of the processor. Blitz on high until everything is a liquidy puree. Then, take a fine-mesh sieve and place it over a clean bowl. Pour the puree into the sieve and, with the help of a rubber scraper, force the liquid through the sieve without pushing through any of the pips of the raspberries. Discard the pips. This will create a thick, silky smooth sauce or coulis which is useful in any number of recipes.
The final stage is to bring it all together. You can make the peaches and the raspberry sauce in advance and then assemble the dish shortly before you are ready to serve it. Divide the vanilla ice cream into four portions (about two scoops per person) and place two of the peach halves alongside the ice cream. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the raspberry sauce around the dish and over the top of the peaches. Sprinkle the almonds over all of it. Serve immediately.
*Kitchen Witch Tips:
To make vanilla sugar, place a vanilla bean pod in a jar of sugar and leave so that the perfume of the pod infuses the sugar with vanilla aroma. This is a good use of a bean pod when you have had to use the seeds for another recipe. If you don't have vanilla sugar on hand, use 1/2 c. regular sugar and place one vanilla bean pod in the liquid as it comes to a boil and the sugar dissolves. Remove the pod, allow it to cool and then use it to make vanilla sugar.