As short and sweet as the last few posts have been, this one is even shorter and sweeter, because my big fancy new project launches on Wednesday and I’ve been immersing myself in the world of the old and the weird. Come along, if you’re so inclined!
Luckily for you, you’re getting a threefer this week, because you can make three (or more!) delicious things from one simple recipe: Nigella Lawson’s Poached Peaches.
A good peach in the summertime is a thing of pure beauty – it’s basically sunshine in the palm of your hand.
A bad peach sucks. We’ve all had them.
In AP Psych we covered a study on addiction: pigeons are trained to push a lever and get a treat, but if the lever keeps giving them treats they’ll eventually get bored and stop, so the only way to get the pigeons to consistently keep pushing said lever is to only give treats at random intervals. (See also: push notifications, slot machines.)
This is how nature gets us to keep eating peaches – in the hope that between all the overripe and underripe, the sour and the mealy, we’ll get that one perfect sunshiney peach. Maybe this time, big money big money, momma needs a new pair of shoes.
Well, worry no more, my dear friends. Nigella’s cracked it. You can muscle even the hardest, weirdest peaches into a state of delectability through the simple process of poaching them in a simple sugar syrup. It is the Peach Fixer.
I know, because I made it this time with some doughnut peaches that were truly Beyond Hope, and it still worked. I mean, they were weirdly crunchy (because, again, Beyond Hope), but they still tasted good.
The principle is this: slice all your peaches in half, bring equal parts of sugar and water to the boil with any flavorings you choose (mint and bourbon are good, lemon juice is a must to cut the sweetness and add some tang), dunk your peaches for 2-3 minutes a side, and voila! Warm, spoonable peach goodness – not as gooey as a fully-cooked peach in a cobbler, but hot and just tender-soft – served with a blushing pink syrup that’s tailor-made for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, or impressing your mother-in-law.
I love these peaches still warm served over vanilla ice-cream, but they keep well in their syrup for up to a week and are great cold. Nigella makes a raspberry sauce to go with them that makes this a full Peach Melba, which I’m sure is great but which I’ve never bothered to do because I just reach the point of Peaches Good and then stop. Raspberries? Who’s got the time.
As a bonus, you’ll end up with much more syrup per recipe than you can possibly eat with ice-cream, so here’s how I like to use it up.
PEACH VARIATION 1: PEACH TEA
Put it in your iced tea! I’m serious, just switch it out for all or most of the honey in your Sweet Tea, and put Snapple right out of business. It’s SO good, both as an afternoon drink or as the base for a cocktail.
PEACH VARIATION 2: PEACH LASSIS
Molly tracked down a good lassi recipe when we last had mangos going bad. Luckily for us, lassis are extremely easy. Unluckily, they require your mangoes to be… good. This time, she riffed on it with some good full-fat plain yogurt, peach syrup, and a touch of cardamom. They are, not to mince words, fucking fantastic.
Other ideas: You could just blend this with vanilla ice cream and have a peach milkshake, or freeze the milkshake into popsicles. What about mixing it with plain seltzer water for a peach soda, or stirring it into lemonade? I bet it would be good with prosecco as a kind of spritzer-bellini hybrid thing, or spooned over lemon sorbet with some fresh mint to garnish.
POACHED PEACHES A MILLION WAYS, FOR SUMMERTIME
- 3 cups water
- 3½ cups sugar
- juice of ½ lemon – DO NOT SKIP THIS. If you don’t add the lemon, it’ll be really sickly.
- 1 vanilla bean (split lengthways), or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 peaches
Optionally, add a cup of bourbon. I know that seems like a lot, but it boils off to nothing, and you can save a tablespoon to add at the end for a boozy kick if you want.
- Put the water, sugar and bourbon if you’re using it in a wide-bottomed saucepan, (I just use my frying pan)
- *(EDITED TO ADD: My mother pointed out that I never said when to add the vanilla or the lemon. I added both of them from the start and it turned out fine, but Mum says to let it boil and then add the flavorings with the peaches. I say, follow your heart. Also in no way do you actually need a vanilla bean, that’s just Nigella being Nigella. All right. Carry on. Over and out.)*
- Give it a stir to help dissolve the sugar, and then heat on medium until it comes to the boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes or so and then turn the heat down to a lively simmer.
- Cut the peaches in half and then fit them cut side down in the pan. You can squish them together a bit, but I usually have to do two batches if I’m making a full recipe. If you can get the peach pits out, great, but if you can’t don’t worry about it. They’ll come out easily post-poaching, you’ll just have to be careful not to squish the peach itself too much.
- Poach for a couple of minutes before turning them over and poaching for another 2-3 minutes cut side up; obviously, the ripeness of the peaches will determine exactly how long they need cooking. Stick ‘em with a fork and see how they do – they should have a little give but not go entirely to pieces.
- When they feel tender but not gooey, remove with a slotted spoon to a dish and continue till you’ve cooked all the peaches. If you find the cooked ones are getting a little brown as you do your second batch, spritz them with some lemon or lime juice.
- Nigella says to pour the juices from the cooked peaches back into the pan and then reduce everything further into a sauce, but I think that’s pointless. We’re done boiling stuff. It’s pink, it’s pretty, it’s tasty, we’re done.
- If you want to, you can keep it simmering while you skin your peaches, which is a real sticky job but not unpleasant. Or just turn the heat off and don’t worry about it.
- Either serve the warm peaches immediately over vanilla ice cream, with the poaching liquid as a sauce over the top, or pour the sauce over the peach halves and keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
MOLLY’S PEACH LASSIS
2 tablespoons of full fat yogurt (fill glass up a third)
1/2 tsp of cardamom
3 tsp sugar
2 glugs of peach syrup
1 cup whole milk (or until the glass is full, whichever comes first)
1. Fill glass 1/3 of the way with full fat yogurt
2. Stir in cardamom and sugar
3. Add milk to almost the top
4. Add peach syrup until it’s the right sweetness. (Make sure to stir)