Nothing beats the succulence of sweet, aromatic Mediterranean peaches, bursting with flavour. This juicy, plump fruit provides delicious eating and can be used in so many different and interesting ways. They can be poached in sugar syrup with cinnamon, vanilla and cloves, roasted with cardamom or pan-fried and caramelised with brown sugar and almonds. Peaches are perfect partners for champagne, cassis and calvados.
They also work really well with ginger, lemons, oranges, strawberries and hazelnuts. Roast duck is also amazingly good with glazed peaches and sweet and sour peach chutney can really liven up cold meats, pâté and salads during the winter months.
The peach originated in china and was transported along the silk route to Persia then into Europe some 2000 years ago. Peaches grow on deciduous trees belonging to the rose family and related to the almond. Alexander the Great introduced them to Greece and Rome where it was known as the queen of fruits.
Peaches stop ripening when picked, so it is important to select firm, ripe fruit with a good fragrance. Make sure that they are unblemished, not too hard and don’t buy more than you plan to use, as fresh peaches are highly perishable and spoil easily.
High in energy with no fat, peaches are a good source of vitamin C and contain an important vitamin A called beta-carotene. Before eating peaches whole, wash the fruit under cold running water; if refrigerated, let them warm to room temperature for optimum flavour. Peaches do not need to be peeled before eating.
However, if you want to peel them, blanch them first by dropping them into boiling water for a minute, then cooling them in ice water; the skins will slip off easily. Rub the peeled fruits with lemon juice to keep them from darkening. Cooking softens peaches and enhances their sweetness. It can also salvage slightly under ripe fruit.
Roasted peaches with lavender caramel & Créme Fraìche
- 4 large, ripe organic peaches, halved and pitted
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 80ml clear honey
- 2.3 sprigs fresh lavender flowers
- Grated zest of one lemon
- 4 large spoonfuls of Crème fraîche
1 Preheat oven to 200c°/gas 6.
2 Coat an ovenproof baking dish with a little butter. Arrange the peaches, cut side up, in the baking dish.
3 Drizzle the honey over the peaches, and add the lavender flowers and lemon zest.
4 Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven, and spoon the lavender caramel from the baking dish over the peaches.
5 Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the peaches are softened and golden.
6 Top the warm peaches with a spoonful of Crème fraîche and drizzle with remaining lavender caramel. Serve immediately.