Aoife Noonan: Peach Melba will bring your taste buds to operatic highs

Show-stopping summer fruit and meringue dessert looks complicated, but it’s easy when you know how

Photograph: Harry Weir

Photograph: Harry Weir

 

I am sold on any recipe, be it savoury or sweet, with peaches or nectarines in it. Peaches scream summer, and I look forward to the glut of these plump blush-and-orange-coloured beauties every year. With its heady peachy aroma and soft juicy flesh, a ripe peach is hard to beat. In this week’s recipe, it is the hero.

A peach Melba is an age-old dessert made famous in the 1800s by chef Auguste Escoffier, who created it for the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba. While the concept may seem a little old-fashioned, the flavours of a peach Melba – peaches, raspberries and vanilla – are a classic combination and work harmoniously together.

Over the years I have used these flavours in a multitude of desserts, a simple but effective combination. The peaches are juicy and sweet, and the raspberries add a little sharpness, while the vanilla adds a comforting note and brings the fruit together perfectly.

Here, I’m using meringue nests filled with a vanilla and raspberry-rippled cream as my base, which is a perfect bed for the fresh ripe fruit to sit on top. This is a gorgeous little show-stopping dessert and may look complicated to construct, but like all recipes, it’s easy when you know how.

To assemble the fruit topping, halve the peaches and cut into slices and then, starting on the outside of the meringue nest, arrange the slices in a circle, slightly overlapping. Repeat to make another smaller circle on the inside and continue until you have a beautiful peach rose. 

I often keep freshly baked meringue nests or shells in the freezer; they defrost quite quickly and are a great bake to have tucked away should you need to whip up a dessert if unexpected guests call. Served in a glass or on a plate, these sweet and summery meringue nests are sure to impress.

The elements of this dessert work perfectly in Eton mess form either, if you are not one for flower arranging. Crush up the meringues and fold through the vanilla raspberry cream, add some chopped-up peaches and a scatter of fresh raspberries to finish. The flavours and textures of this peach Melba dessert are beautiful, whichever way you choose to eat it.

Recipe: Peach Melba meringue nests

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