Peaches and their copycat cousin, nectarines, are two of the tastiest delights of summer. Juice running down your chin is joy – but not, of course when it hits your T-shirt!
Prunus persica — the botanical name for the peach — had its origins in China where the blossoms are thought to ward off evil spirits and provide vitality and the tree symbolises longevity. It’s one of China’s most popular fruits and the country is the world’s largest producer of peaches — about 14 thousand tonnes a year.
After conquering Persia, Alexander the Great took peach pits to Spain and France. Instead of hopping directly across the channel to England, the peach took a longer route. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers took the first peaches to South America and it was from there the peach travelled to England. It became Queen Victoria's favourite after-dinner treat. I’m with her!
Removing pesky peach stains: It’s the tannin in the fruit that stains on fabrics. My advice is not to rub or wipe stains with a cloth. Dab them with a paper towel or tissue to blot up as much moisture as you can.
If necessary, soak the stain for 15 minutes in a mixture of four cups of lukewarm water combined with a half teaspoon of liquid dishwash detergent and one tablespoon of white vinegar. Or you could use a tablespoon of enzyme pre-soak product.
UPSIDE DOWN PEACH CAKE
Based on a recipe from Picton foodie Margaret McHugh’s new cookbook The Real McHugh https://www.gourmet-deli.co.nz. Margaret’s recipe uses blackboy peaches. I used white-fleshed free-stone peaches with the skin on.
Topping: 50g butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornflour
6-8 ripe peaches, halved and stoned
Cake: 2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
50g butter, melted
1/4 cup each: vegetable oil (eg canola), cream, buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake pan.
To make the topping, combine the butter, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and cornflour. Spoon over the base of the cake pan. Place the peaches on top, cut-side down.
To make the cake, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence in an electric mixer, until well combined. Combine the butter and oil. Slowly whisk into the mixture. Slowly add the cream, buttermilk and lemon juice.
Sift the flour and baking powder. Fold in by hand — don't overmix. If small lumps appear in the mix, it’s fine. Pour over the peaches.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Rest for 20 minutes in the pan then turn upside down onto a serving plate.
Serve with cream, yoghurt or custard. Serves 8-10.
RHUBARB & RASPBERRY CHUTNEY
Rhubarb is a spring speciality. But this summer, my plant has one metre long stalks! Great combined with raspberries.
6 cups roughly chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup each: lemon juice, cider vinegar
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup raisins or craisins
3 tablespoons finely chopped glace ginger
4 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
Place the rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy-based, med-large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the remaining ingredients. Continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes until thickened.
Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal. Makes about 4 cups.
BAKED APRICOT CRISP
Topping: 75g butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
3 (packed) tablespoons dark cane sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Fruit: 6 large apricots
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Melt the butter and let cool. Mix together the flour, spice, salt and brown sugar in a bowl. Stir in the rolled oats and walnuts. Stir in the melted butter.
Halve and stone the apricots. Place in a baking dish cut-side up. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with the sugar.
Take heaped tablespoons of the oat mixture and dot over the apricots.
Bake until bubbling, about 30-40 minutes. Cool slightly and serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 4.