A couple of months ago I worked at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, helping out with the food events. It is/was full of bright stars and ideas but the one I remembered, and decided to try, was Mark Diacono‘s poached peaches. In amongst telling us about the delights of growing Szechuan pepper and society garlic, Mark mentioned in passing that the best way to make a hard, not-perfectly-ripe supermarket peach worth eating was to poach it with chocolate mint.
I had never heard of chocolate mint, nor of the idea of poaching a peach with it, so I went home, dug out his book A Year at Otter Farm and, once said mint had been sourced and bought (never fear, you can use any mint), I tried the recipe. And although I live in north London and have a great supply of good, non-supermarket fruit from around the world, I still think this improves any peach, even the lovely ripe ones. They become beautifully soft, with an intensity of flavour, yet without being too sweet.
I love this because, not only is it quick, relatively cheap (especially if you use water not wine) and really straightforward, it is a bit of a Russian dolls recipe, which never quite finishes. So, apart from the delight of eating freshly poached peaches, this is also a great way of preserving them since, once they are poached, you can store them in their poaching liquid in the fridge for several days, digging them out for puddings and breakfast (try them with Greek yogurt). If you still have some left after that, then stone and puree them with the remaining liquid, sieve to remove any remaining bits and turn them into a sorbet, either with a machine or like this. You can then put a scoop of that in the bottom of a bellini…see, it’s endlessly generous!
Mark Diacono’s poached peaches (adapted from A Year at Otter Farm)
Once you’ve made this a few times you’ll be better able to judge how much liquid you need for the size of your peaches. I had heaps left the first time and now tend to make half the amount in the book, which is what I have listed below.
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
cloves, 1 per peach
peaches, 4-6 (I have used the hard as nails and the ripe and they both benefit)
white wine, 200ml (or you can just use more water)
vanilla pod, ½, cut in half lengthways
fresh mint, a few decent sprigs (any mint will do)
You will also need a piece of baking parchment as big as the diameter of the pan used.
1. Cut a shallow cross in the bottom of each peach and push in a clove. Zest the lemon half.
2. Put the water, sugar and wine into a saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
3. Add the lemon zest, vanilla pod, mint and peaches to the pan. If the peaches are not completely submerged, then add a little more water.
4. Cut a rough circle of baking parchment to fit the top of the saucepan, then use this to cover the peaches (and help them stay submerged).
5. Simmer gently for about 5-15 minutes, depending on the size and ripeness of the peaches, until the skins are peeling away and the fruit is soft.
6. Remove from the heat, peel when cool and discard the skin and cloves. Return to their liquid and serve cold or warm, with some of the poaching liquid and, in my world, a little double cream.