I know it's early in the year to stray from the resolutions we made for 2013 but as my piano teacher often told me (encouraging me to practise) "every good boy deserves fruit".
I note local nectarines are now in season so here is a great way to enjoy one of your 5+ a day.
It is thought nectarines are a simple mutant of the peach in which case we can assume they have been around since 2000BC when peaches were thought to have been first cultivated in China. The nectarine has a smooth fuzziless skin unlike the moleskin appearance of the peach. They are at their best when soft to the touch. When the first bite causes the juice to run down your arm they are delicious. More often they will require a good week to get to that stage if you acquire them from the usual retail outlets. Farmers markets and roadside stalls will have them ready to enjoy.
Nectarines do grow and ripen this far south but are not common sights. In my opinion the Central Otago nectarines are the best in the country. We have had access to a very obliging nectarine tree for some years in Alexandra. One of my most memorable treats from the tree was when we had a very well respected chef from Japan staying with us.
He went out one evening and gathered very ripe fruit from the tree. These he caramelised and presented to us with french vanilla icecream. They were nothing short of sensational so here is how he achieved these simply delicious-tasting nectarines.
50 gm butter
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp Cointreau (optional)
Method: Cut each nectarine into thick slices. The best way to do this is over a bowl that will collect any juice.
Take a heavy-based non-stick pan adding the butter and heat over a medium temperature.
As soon as the butter is hot (prior to it smoking) add the nectarines and sauté them as they sizzle and their juices reduce, about 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle the sugar over the nectarines and continue to sauté until the juices thicken and the sugar caramelises lightly, about a minute.
Add the lemon juice and any nectarine juice that you may have collected in the bowl and, shaking the pan so they blend well, again allow to reduce and thicken.
Add the Cointreau and flame, tossing the nectarines in the pan as you do so.
Allow to cool a little and serve alongside the french vanilla ice cream.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.
The Southland Times