Clingstone peaches always remind me of my Nonna. In summer, she was always slicing them up on the verandah to hand out to my cousins and I as we played in her front yard. Come to think of it, she always had lovely stone fruit available and always had a paring knife at the ready in her apron pockets. I love my Nonna and still miss her very much. But those little memories are the ones I hold on to very dearly because the simple joys in life are often those that stay with us as memories forever.
The fragrance, velvety touch, and rosy blush of a perfectly ripe peach in mid-summer is one such evocative joy. It is such a sensual fruit.
I love all peaches and use them liberally in tarts, gelato, compotes, baked into muffins or cake, jams, and in all manner of desserts. Best of all, though, is to eat it fresh and without too many adornments, when perfectly ripe, juice dribbling down one’s chin.
Clingstone peaches, though, do seem to come alive when gently poached to release their sweetness. The flesh takes on a creaminess that is simply lush. You can poach them any way you like. My favourite is to poach them in a syrup spiked with a little vanilla, cinnamon, and rosewater. The aroma is out of this world. The flavour will transport you to heaven (not literally of course). Rosewater loves peaches. Actually, rosewater is just wonderful all round. Over on the Facebook page, Yury posted his version of the Zaeti, made with cranberries, orange zest, and rosewater. Sensational … I love it when someone takes a recipe and fiddles with it to turn it into a spectacular variation. Go check them out
Poached peaches are wonderful for breakfast or a light dessert. I love them served simply with some greek yoghurt, sprinkled with pistachios or flaked and toasted almonds, and with a good spoonful of syrup. They will also transform a pancake breakfast into something spectacular. Carefully segment the peaches once poached, arrange on top of your favourite pancakes with a dollop of yoghurt, some pistachios and pour over a little of the poaching syrup. ETHEREAL.
These peaches also make a lovely light dessert served with yoghurt, vanilla or Torroncino Ice-cream, lightly whipped cream or ricotta. They’d be sensational served with a slice of dense flourless chocolate cake. I’m making myself hungry …
All up, this simple dish can be as wicked or as healthy as you want it to be.
Make sure to buy blemish free clingstone peaches, neither too ripe nor under-ripe, for the best flavour. You can make this recipe ahead of time and store the peaches in their syrup, in the refrigerator, for a couple of days. It makes life very easy. They are beautiful served chilled on a hot summer’s day. I make this recipe all during the clingstone season, while it lasts, every year. The whole family loves it. It’s so light and fresh.
Summer on a plate! Perfect for when it’s just too hot to go anywhere near the oven (yes, Melbourne, I’m looking at you now).
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and fabulous 2012!
Serves 4 – 6
1 litre (4 cups) water
160 grams (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons) orange blossom honey OR 100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar*
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon Dutch cinnamon (cassia bark) or 1/2 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon rosewater
4 large or 6 small to medium clingstone peaches
*You can use honey or sugar for this recipe. I have made it many times using either, with spectacular results. If using honey, I find orange blossom honey gives the best flavour but any light floral honey can substitute.
Place the water, honey or sugar, vanilla, cinnamon or stick, and rosewater into a large saucepan. You want a saucepan that will fit the peaches neatly on the bottom so they are not piled up. They will poach more evenly and keep their shape much better this way. Place on a medium heat until the honey or sugar dissolves and let simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes.
In the meantime, wash the peaches. Using a sharp knife, slice into the groove to the stone, all the way around the peach. The cut will open slightly as the peach cooks but will hold its shape. This allows the peach to absorb the fragrance and flavours in the syrup but also helps release the peach flavours into the syrup. The peaches cook more quickly so that you don’t have to overcook them. Perfect!
Place the peaches into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cover. Let simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes or until the peaches are just cooked through. This will vary depending on the size of the peaches and how ripe they are. Just ripe peaches are ideal for this. You can test a peach with a thin skewer. If it penetrates easily into the flesh, and the texture of the flesh gives easily, they’re done.
Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the peaches to a deep dish, in a single layer, and set aside.
Raise the heat and let the syrup come to a rolling boil. Reduce the syrup to about 200 millilitres (or just under one cup). Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t reduce down too much or burn. When reduced, pour the syrup over the peaches and let cool completely.
You can now cover and store the peaches in a refrigerator for a couple of days, if required.
To serve, place a peach on each plate. Top each one with a dollop of thick yoghurt, a sprinkling of chopped pistachios (or toasted, flaked almonds), and a tablespoon or two of the syrup.
Extra syrup is lovely to add to ice-creams, desserts, smoothies, over pancakes, or anything else you fancy. So don’t throw it out, it’s fragrant and delicious!