It's the first week of August. Height of summer. Roads should be shimmering with resentful heat. Plant life should be reduced to so much prickly kindling. Tempers should be fraying. All my white linen trousers should have ice cream stains on them. And I should be wallowing and luxuriating in a diet consisting entirely of sweet, cold, juicy-bursting-leaking fruit.
Except someone has switched over the scripts, and I seem to have found myself in the wrong movie, becuase it's cold, soggy-slippery and miserable. And the only fruit to be easily had is the supermarket variety, which, if you don't live in the UK, has one important characteristic that you should be aware of for the purposes of understanding my angst here: it can rot to putrefaction from the outside while still being rock hard and acidy inside.
This is especially true of stone fruit such as plums, peaches, nectarines etc. And that breaks my heart every year anew, because peaches and nectarines are my favourite fruit... But sometimes, I have to have them, and then something just has to be done! If softness and sweetness is not available from the shop, well I'm just going to have to see about that!
So here's what I did to some attractive but only partially edible peaches that landed in my shopping trolly last weekend:
And then I suggest you:
- Slice the peaches into segments. The best way to do this is to pass a sharp knife all the way around the peach, along the natural cleft that it has from stem to tip, grasp each half firmly and twist them sharply in opposite directions, separating the fruit from the stone; then cut each half into 3-4 segments, lenthways. However, artificially ripened fruit gets very soft on the outside while remaining rock hard in the centre, and not separating from the stone, so if you tried that technique you might get hands covered in peach purée and not much more. I therefore recommend placing the peach stem-down on a cutting board and slicing downwards from the tip, as close to the stone as you can, one side and then the other, then progressively smaller slices all around until you hit the stone and most of the flesh has been cut off. Cut the two initial large pieces into smaller segments.
- In a bowl large enough to hold all the peaches, mix the vinegar, sugar and brandy together and whisk for a bit until most of the sugar had dissolved. Stir in the peaches, making sure they are all covered in the marinade. Leave for 1-2 hours, mixing occasionally to give all the fruit pieces a chance to get soaked.
- Preheat your grill to its highest temperature. Spread the peach slices in a single layer on a baking tray and drizzle the remains of the marinade over them. Grill for 5-8 minutes.
- Leave the peaches to cool down. I served them completely cold, but I think they would be nice warm, too. Divide the peaches between two serving bowls (we're greedy!), pouring in any remaining juices from the baking tray. Spoon the créme fraiche over them and drizzle with a little honey. Ét voilá! Sweet, soft, creamy peaches for your delectation.