Summer is the season when nature finally displays all its richness with a full array of colours & ripeness. The shyness of spring has turned into an overwhelming choice and abundance of fruit and sun-drenched vegetables bursting with flavours and vivid colours. The fresh fruit on the market stalls looked really awesome this week and the selection was truly inspiring. With luscious strawberries, stunning looking cherries, thirst quenching melons, the season’s first figs, apricots, plums, peaches and succulent nectarines all jostling for position as the stars of the show…
Sweeter than it’s first cousin, the peach, and darker fleshed; nectarines are a sweet, juicy treat that is virtually fat free and a goodsupply of vitamin C and fibre. Despite their similarity, nectarines have been distinguished from peaches and other pitted fruits for hundreds of years and their name derived from nektar, the Greek word for "drink of the gods". This juicy, plump, orange-yellow skinned 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.
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 are perfect partners for champagne, cassis and calvados. They also work really well with ginger, lemons, oranges, strawberries and hazelnuts. Pan-fried foie gras or roast duck are amazingly good with glazed peaches and, sweet and sour peach chutney can really liven up cold meats, pâté and salads.
Peaches and nectarines 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. Reject fruits that are mushy or have shrivelled skins, both signs of decay.
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 and nectarines 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 & nectarines and enhances their sweetness. It can also salvage slightly under ripe fruit.
If you’re looking for a refreshing summer cocktail to cool yourself down in the intense summer heat, then check this out. Throw a chopped, bordering on over-ripe, peach into a blender with a little vodka. Add a small amount of peach liquor and a glass of well chilled champagne or cava. Blend and pour into martini glasses. This thirst quenching cocktail is called “Bellini”, and was invented in Harry’s bar, Venice around 1934.
At Misa Braseria, We serve Roasted Peaches with orange blossom & almond ice cream on our new dessert menu. It’s such a simple dessert in essence, but the flavours work so well together and if the peaches are perfectly ripe, you can’t fail.
The popularity of a lighter style of eating coupled with the growing interest in healthy food has contributed to the increasing use of fresh fruit in our daily diet, but few can beat the big taste, aroma and succulence of the mighty peach, Queen of Fruits.
NECTARINE, FETA CHEESE & ROCKET LEAVE SALAD
You have to try this salad! The sweetness of the nectarines works really well with salty feta cheese and the peppery rocket leaves.
Ingredients serves 6
4 nectarines, halved & sliced into wedges
100g cleaned rocket leaves
2tbsp sherry vinegar
2tbsp walnut oil
2tbsp olive oil
½tsp Dijon mustard
250g feta cheese, crumbled
20 black olives, stoned
Whisk together the walnut oil, olive oil, mustard & sherry vinegar. Season to taste. Toss the nectarines, feta cheese, olives and rocket leaves in a large bowl.
Drizzle with the dressing & serve immediately.
Ingredients: serves 6
350ml red wine
150ml peach puree
juice of 2 lemons
4 ripe peaches, Stoned and quartered
300ml soda water
Combine all ingredients in a large glass pitcher with loads of ice. Stir in the soda just before serving. Serve in chilled wine glasses.
1kl ripe peaches
200g tomatoes (de-seeded and chopped)
60g onion (finely chopped)
250g light brown sugar
250ml sherry vinegar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½tsp. Powdered saffron
Place all the ingredients, except the peaches, in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook over a gentle flame, stirring frequently, for about 30-40 minutes until thick and syrupy.
Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 15 seconds and refresh them in ice cold water. Peel them and cut them into large chunks.
Add the peaches to the saucepan and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the peaches start to break down. Pour into sterilised glass jars and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
ROASTED PEACHES WITH AMARETTO
Ingredients: Serves 4
4 whole peaches
30g Demerara sugar
Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan with 25g of butter. Add the peaches and fry, turning occasionally, until they start to become golden brown.
Place the peaches on a baking tray and bake in the oven (200ºc/400ºf/gas 6) for about 15-20 minutes.
Add the remaining butter, sugar and amaretto to the frying pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a thick syrup and add the peaches to the pan to coat them.
Place the peaches on a plate, pour over the remaining amaretto syrup and serve with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.