Sweet baked ricotta with nectarines

LAURA FAIRE
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2013
sweet
MICHAEL BRADLEY/FAIRFAXNZ

SWEET TREAT: Baked ricotta with honey-baked nectarines.

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NEED TO KNOW

Main ingredient Ricotta
Type of dish Baking
Course Dessert
Cooking time 30 min - 1 hour
Serves/makes 4
Special options Nut-free

The cooler evenings and sharper mornings of this time of year bring with them the relentless reliability that autumn will soon follow summer. It's one of my favourite things about each year. It is easier to sift through cupboards, wash windows or tidy up in the warm weather while the odd rainy day is perfect for upending the junk drawer or doing a bit of mending in front of the TV.

Late summer mending in the garden is also in order. My espalier apple tree is looking decidedly buggy at the tips, gummed up with sticky sap-eating something-or-others that are attracting ants. I have under-planted with nasturtium as a natural pest repellant, but it hasn't done the trick.

My go-to remedy for this type of thing is a few evenings of spraying with neem oil. I start this even before I get out my Palmers Fruit Growers Handbook to identify the issue. There are lots of other suggested natural sprays and remedies in the handbook, many of the more targeted ideas I have tried in the past. However, neem oil covers a multitude of buggy sins and it goes a long way in a healthy garden.

Another bout of applications a week later usually finishes off any stubborn crawlers. My 200ml bottle has long since lost its label; watered down as once stated on the packet it has so far lasted five years.

One tree I have been researching for possible purchase is a nectarine. Finding the perfect tree is about what suits the area more than flavour preference. I love firm, freestone nectarines for eating, these are the ones that don't soften as they ripen. But for cooking I like the softer varieties known as "melting". I will look for nectarines with a freestone because this makes them easier to handle. 

ANew Zealand point towards South Island grown Redgold or Fantasia for cooking at this time of year, but I have extended the seasonal info this week to include a few more options. While I am happy to pass this info on, it bugs me that so often the variety of a fruit isn't declared in stores. This sloppy habit makes it almost impossible to buy what you want or be excited about a favourite. My policy in the supermarket is to ask staff and get them to find me with the answer further along the aisles.

In about six weeks apricots, peaches and plums will be available only from your freezer, supermarket shelves or your gran's bottled stash. Here they are roasted to garnish this homely ricotta pudding. Taking time to skin a nectarine is not my style, these white flesh beauties were chopped off their stones, thrown into a hot oven and flung over my puds. They lend a bright contrast to these funny little classics.

 

SWEET-BAKED RICOTTA WITH HONEY-BAKED NECTARINES

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
500g ricotta
1 Tbsp honey
½ vanilla pod, scraped
¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
2 eggs, separated
4-6 nectarines, chopped
1 Tbsp honey
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 Tbsp boiling water

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1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Toss nectarines in honey and lemon and place in an ovenproof dish. Roast for 20-25 minutes until tender and caramelised.

2. Brush four approximately 1 cup capacity ovenproof dishes with vegetable oil.

3. Beat together ricotta, honey, vanilla seeds, icing sugar and egg yolks.

4. Whisk egg whites until fluffy, then use a large metal spoon to fold into ricotta mixture. Spoon into dishes and bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed up.

5. Add the boiling water to the roasted fruit and use it to incorporate the flavours from the roasting dish (like a rough fruit gravy). Spoon the fruit over the baked ricotta to serve.

- Sunday Star Times

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