Life's a peach

With the school holidays upon us, summer really is in full swing: warm temperatures, swimming outdoors, dappled sunny walks, camping, easy salads means easy food that takes no time to throw together, and fruit in abundance - bliss!

At the height of the summer there is so much fruit we are spoilt for choice. I like to give apples a break as they come from way too far at this time of year so I'll save them until autumn. As a private chef working in Bristol, I’m really lucky to have such a great local greengrocer, who I am always visiting - at the moment even more so: cherries one day, strawberries the next, blueberries, nectarines, raspberries, the list is practically endless.

But one fruit that I buy during every visit and which I always vow to have in my fruit bowl for as long as I can find it, is the delicious flat or doughnut peach. I remember eating them in Spain years ago and I’d always known them as paraguayos, but hadn’t seen them over here until the last few years. They are delicately perfumed and fragranced, always ripe and juicy with a pale flesh: I’m not sure whether it’s their squashed, flat shape which makes them ripen more evenly but they are practically always guaranteed to be beautifully ripe. It sounds too good to be true! The good news is, this is not genetically modified, it is a bona fide peach species, first grown in China in the 19th century.

Whatever the weather, thoughts always turn to food, which is synonymous with enjoyment and pleasure. What to cook? What is around? I love a griddle or a BBQ in this weather but I don’t want to eat meat all the time. The question is, can you cook a peach or would you want to? Have you ever tried it? I’m here to tell you that you can, and it is delicious!

Grilled marinated peach with buffalo mozzarella & mint

I’m a huge fan of using different vinegars. In a good deli or health food shop you can find all sorts which are made with straight varietal wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Also recently, I discovered Kombucha vinegar with rosehip and hibiscus.  In the summer, I love to use Moscatel vinegar which is made with the sweet wine of the same name.

Make a dressing by dicing a small shallot and macerating it in a good dash of Moscatel vinegar with some salt and pepper; add some picked thyme leaves. Cut your peaches into 6 wedges and toss them in a bowl with some good, fruity olive oil and salt and pepper. If you have a cast iron griddle, get it very hot until it is smoking; grill the oiled peach pieces. (If you have a hot BBQ, you could also use it to grill some peaches, or other veg, such as peppers, for another time.) When they have grill marks on them, they are ready so just turn them over. It doesn’t take long at all. Then return them to the bowl with the remaining olive oil and add the Moscatel/shallot/thyme mixture, tossing it all together well. Serve with a generous handful of mint, some bitter leaves such as radicchio and some buffalo mozzarella, this makes a delicious starter. Peaches grilled and marinated in this way are also great with duck or pork. They also make a great canapé on a skewer.

I hope you have a happy summer. As far as I’m concerned, as long as I have a steady supply of these little beauties, life really is peachy!