A good peach does not need much doing to it, apart from some careful handling and good timing. A bowl of perfect white peaches and a dessert knife make an eloquent dessert, just as long as they are ripe but unbruised. They should be peeled – a perfectly ripe fruit can be peeled without blanching – and that can be enough. However, more often than not, I drop them into boiling water, rinse them in cold and remove the skins and then, with a small knife, cut segments into a bowl.
Just supposing we don’t stop there – or add the segments to a glass of wine – I often make a salad with tomatoes (peeled and segmented in the same fashion), basil and olive oil or a different sort of salad with strawberries and fresh mint. Or, I might just put the segments in a blender and add prosecco to that purée to make a bellini.
Perfect white peaches – in Britain at least – are not so easily found. Even in France and Italy, the fragile but fragrant white peach is vastly outnumbered by its more robust yellow-fleshed cousin. Some would say the yellow was not worth bothering with and one should stick to the best. In many things I believe that holds true. There is no point in eating a second-rate steak or a battery chicken any more than eating a not perfectly fresh mackerel or a tasteless tomato. A fat squab pigeon is undoubtedly “better” than a wood pigeon, an English partridge is more interesting and flavoursome than the French variety and a fat early season spear of English asparagus is more succulent and exciting than the thin “sprues” that shoot up at the end of the season. The superior luxury does not necessarily invalidate its inferior counterpart, even if one may be for every day and the other for Sunday best.
Since a yellow peach can use a little help, there are many recipes which are better suited to the yellow peach. A cobbler or crumble, for example, with a generous hint of almond in the crumble, are generally better with yellow peaches, as are these stuffed peaches, redolent of rum (you can leave it out if you want) and almond.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
More columns at www.ft.com/leigh
Stuffed peaches and Moscato zabaglione
There are many variations of this Piedmontese classic: I’ve served it cold with a chilled zabaglione made with Moscato Spumante, which was fabulous, but ice-cream or cream will do very well. Serves four to six.
A measure of rum
6 amaretti biscuits, or macaroons
2 egg yolks
● Split the peaches in half and remove the stones. Scoop out a little of the flesh with a spoon to enlarge the cavities left by the stones. Chop this pulp and stew it in a saucepan in the butter before adding the rum. Remove from the stove.
● Crush the amaretti biscuits to a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle and then add to the pulp.
● Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together and add to the peach pulp and amaretti biscuit mix.
● Put the peaches skin-side down in an ovenproof dish. Spoon in the stuffing mixture. Bake in a medium oven (375°F, 180°C) for about 20 minutes.
3 egg yolks
85g caster sugar
125ml glass of Moscato d’Asti
● Whisk together the ingredients in a large bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and proceed to whisk with a steady beat until the mixture slowly starts to thicken and increase in volume. Keep going until the mixture holds its shape and there is no liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
● Serve immediately or cool slightly, fold in 125ml whipped cream and chill.
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