Savour the season

JAN BILTON
Last updated 11:15 24/01/2013
Grilled peach salad
Jan Bitlon

Grilled peach salad

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Life's too short to not take advantage of summer's splendid stonefruit. And this year's selection - with its intoxicating aromas - is one of the best. There's nothing more enjoyable than biting into a fresh, tree-ripened peach, apricot, nectarine or plum, savouring the juices and the flesh melting in your mouth.

Peaches reached celebrity status in Europe in 1893, when the famed French chef Escofffier honoured the Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba by creating a dish in her name. When the famed prima donna threw a party at London's Savoy Hotel, Chef Escoffier produced Peches Melba - a swan carved out of ice nestling in a bed of poached peaches on a base of vanilla ice cream. A puree of raspberries is now a standard addition to this delectable dessert.

One of Italy's most famous drinks, the Bellini - a mixture of Italian sparkling wine and peach puree - was created by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry's Bar in Venice, in 1931. The cocktail‘s colour reminded Cipriani of the shade of the toga worn by a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. Harry's has been host to Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles and Aristotle Onassis, amongst others.

Peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums also make excellent substitutes for tomatoes in many recipes.

For example, sliced ripe nectarines layered in rows together with sliced, fresh mozzarella, drizzled with equal amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and seasoned with flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sliced basil leaves.

Or crispy croissants filled with ripe plums and bacon. Crisp the croissants at 180 degrees C. Split and spread with butter or table spread. Fill with sliced plums and grilled bacon. Add a dab of chutney or aioli.

Stonefruit sold in most supermarkets needs to be picked when it is firm, to prevent spoiling in transit. To hasten ripening, place it in a paper bag with an apple and keep at room temperature. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator.

GRILLED PEACH SALAD

To prepare your own balsamic glaze, combine a cup of balsamic vinegar with 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. Simmer until thick.

3-4 rashers streaky bacon

3 peaches, peeled, stoned, and each cut into 6 wedges

1-2 tsp canola oil

Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp each: extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice

3-4 cups each: butter crunch lettuce leaves, wild rocket leaves

3-4 Tbsp balsamic glaze

Microwave or grill the bacon until crisp. Crumble or cut into smaller pieces.

Brush a ridged grill pan with the oil, then heat. Pan grill the peaches for about 30 seconds on each side or until grill marks appear but the peaches are still firm. Season.

Whisk the salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the crisp salad leaves and toss until lightly coated in the dressing. Arrange in a salad bowl.

Top with the peaches and bacon. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Serves 4.

FRAGRANT APRICOT PORK

2-3 Tbsp rice bran oil

1kg lean pork, cut into 3cm cubes

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1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1-2 Tbsp curry powder

1 tsp each: fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Tbsp each: tomato paste, kecap manis

1 cup hot water

6-8 apricots, halved and stoned

2 Tbsp each: cream, desiccated coconut, chopped coriander

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Heat half the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Pan fry the pork in batches until lightly coloured. Place in a casserole.

Heat the remaining oil. Saute the onion until softened. Add the garlic, curry powder and seeds. Stir for 1 minute.

Add the pepper, tomato paste and hot water. Mix well, then pour over the pork.

Place half the apricots in the casserole. Cover and cook for about 2 hours, until the pork is tender.

Add the remaining apricots and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the cream, coconut and coriander.

Great served over split baked kumara. Serves 6.

NECTARINE NACHOS

175g corn chips

390g can of black beans in chilli sauce, drained

2 nectarines, stoned and thinly sliced

2 spring onions, chopped

1 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese

1 avocado, stoned, peeled and mashed

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Lightly oil a sheet of foil. Place on an oven tray.

Layer the corn chips, black beans, nectarines, spring onions and cheese in a 23cm-diameter round on the foil. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Combine the avocado with the lemon juice. Serve the nachos with the avocado and sour cream. Serves 4 as a snack or light meal.

FAVOURITE PLUM SAUCE

3.5kg red-fleshed plums, stoned

1kg apples, cored and sliced

3 onions, chopped

2 cups each: cider vinegar, malt vinegar

2 Tbsp salt

4 cups brown sugar

1 tsp ground chilli

1 Tbsp finely chopped root ginger

1 tsp each: whole black peppercorns, whole cloves, allspice berries

Place the prepared plums in a large pan with the apples, onions, vinegars, salt, sugar, chilli and ginger. Tie the peppercorns, cloves and allspice berries in muslin and add. Simmer until very soft. Remove the muslin bag.

Puree the plum mixture in a blender or food processor or sieve through a colander. Return to a clean pan and boil until thick - this will take about 1 hour.

Pour into hot, clean bottles. Seal when cold. The tops may be dipped in melted wax for an airtight seal. Makes about 2 litres.

Copyright JAN BILTON

- The Marlborough Express

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