Summertime England does fruit well. There is nothing like tart gooseberries folded through fools, punnets of impossibly perfect cherries, raspberries eaten straight off the cane or unsurpassably sweet English strawberries (accompanied by my body weight in clotted cream). Then, as summer fades into autumn, hedgerows and farmers markets fill up with the sweetest Victoria plums, greengages and dusky, purple damsons. There is no doubt that we do great stone fruit, but the one thing I seriously envy our continental cousins for are peaches.
The vast majority of peaches available in this country are an embarrassment. If you buy a punnet in a supermarket they will, more often than not, bear a significantly closer resemblance to your average cricket ball than to the sun-ripened, juicy fruit you would find across the channel. For this reason I usually steer well clear, but this week I spied a small, inconspicuous basket of flat peaches on a fruit stall near my flat. It was a scorcher of a day and I was feeling suitably cheery and continental so I thought, what the hell, let’s give it one more go. I braced myself for the usual mouth-puckering, eye-watering sharpness and shudder, but miraculously I had hit the juicy jackpot. These peaches were mellow, super sweet and – as stupid as it may sound – actually tasted of peach.
I ate some raw, a couple I made into compote to eat with granola but the last few I turned into this simple dessert. I chargrilled the quartered peaches and served them with cherries, Greek yoghurt, toasted almonds and a drizzle of syrup infused with cardamom and barberry. Barberries are a small, tart berry used a lot in Persian cooking whose sharp tang offset the sweetness of the peaches beautifully and, along with the heady fragrance of green cardamom give this a luxurious middle-eastern feel that is perfect for balmy summer nights.
Inevitably, being England, the weather broke. It’s now drizzling and chilly and those peaches have disappeared from the shop, replaced by usual solid balls of acid masquerading as fruit. So for now I’ll leave the stone fruit to my sun-kissed continental pals and stick to grumbling about the weather and eating strawberries in the driving rain, because – as I always say – there’s nothing an industrial sized vat of clotted cream won’t fix.
Chargrilled Peaches with Cardamom and Barberry Syrup
- 2 ripe peaches (go abroad if necessary)
- 10 cherries, stones removed
- 80g Greek yoghurt
- small handful toasted almonds
- 100ml water
- 150g caster sugar
- 4 cardamom pods
- 20g dried barberries (available in Middle-Eastern shops)
Halve the peaches, remove the stone and cut into segments (mine were small so quarters worked for me). Heat a griddle pan until smoking and lightly chargrill the peaches on the cut sides – if your pan is hot enough there is no need to use any oil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
To make the syrup combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Lightly crush the cardamom pods with the back of a knife or in a pestle and mortar. Add the cardamom to the pan along with the barberries. Bring the syrup to the boil and simmer for a minute. Turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse.
Arrange the peach segments on serving plates with cherries. dot around dollops of Greek yoghurt and scatter over the almonds. Spoon over a few of the barberries from the syrup (avoiding the cardamom pods!) and drizzle over a little syrup. Serve.
The remaining syrup is amazing with fruit compotes or simply drizzled over ice cream.