Peach Melba

I liked peaches as a child even though I had never tasted fresh peaches in Madras, India; they always came from a can and they seemed good. I remember them mostly if not only through the dessert, peach melba. I remember enjoying this dessert made at home, however, the peach melba experience, the one that epitomizes the dessert in my mind came from Hotel Dasaprakash. I remember late evening drives with family that were planned around eating peach melba at the hotel’s ice cream parlor. It was a treat.

I might now imagine that the peach melba was all about the peaches and their juicy novelty in childhood, but no, I remember clearly that the nutty, caramel-ly praline scattered generously atop the fresh cream (or vanilla ice cream) and the accompanying mixed berry jam were a big part of my experience. I don’t think it mattered to me if the peaches were replaced by mangoes. Strangely enough, now when I think about the dessert, despite the wonderful experience of fresh mangoes I have from childhood, the name mango melba just does not ring the same way or invoke the memories that peach melba does.

Praline

 

Peaches, just blanched and skinned

Here’s a method to make peach melba:

Ingredients:

Peaches

Raspberries

Sugar

Lemon

Walnuts

Blanch an adequately ripe peach for about thirty seconds and transfer into a bowl of ice-cold water before carefully removing the skin. Cut peaches into wedges, coat them with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and place in a glass container. Sprinkle some sugar, put a layer of parchment paper to cover surface, close with a lid and refrigerate overnight. Prepare a purée of raspberries, add some sugar, heat to mix, cool, strain to remove seeds and refrigerate. To prepare the praline, prepare caramel to the deep golden, slightly smoky stage; add toasted walnuts off the heat, reheat to melt caramel and then pour onto a silpat mat and spread the nut mixture into a thin layer. Once cooled and hardened, break shards of the walnut brittle and pulverize or grind into a coarse powder. Assemble peaches as desired with freshly whipped cream slightly sweetened with the syrup exuding from the macerating peaches, and then drizzle raspberry purée and as much praline as you see fit.

Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire published in 1903 describes a dish called Pêches Melba where peaches are poached in a vanilla-flavored syrup, placed atop vanilla ice-cream and topped with a purée of raspberries; his 1934 Ma Cuisine expands on the recipe: tender peaches that don't hold onto the core too firmly, blanched briefly to remove skin, sprinkled with sugar and let to rest, placed atop vanilla ice cream, topped with fresh raspberry purée and when in season to use slivers of fresh almonds, never the dried one. As french as praline maybe it is not mentioned in Escoffier's recipes of peach melba. How in time did Dasaprakash's peach melba acquire this addition?

 

To me, now, the peach melba, as much as it benefits from the praline, only gets as good as the quality of the peaches. And given the unforgiving nature of their taste if not in season and not properly ripe, what do I do when I crave them out of season?  An uncle from India who visited me not so long ago - when peaches were not in season - described a memory of playing carroms with his buddies late into nights where loser paid winner in peach melbas at Dasaprakash, settled late at night in the ice cream parlor, including winners of more than one round gladly and readily accepting the entirety of their winnings in one go. I was reminded of this moment recently and I readily relived my own childhood memories of the dessert. In making the dessert now, I wonder about the balance of influence on the moment in gastronomy: the richness of the canned peach experience, the role of the just-so ripe peach and where the original recipe must have come from?

Peach Melba, Dasaprakash influenced

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Peach Melba

  1. Jeff

    So wonderful to read about your special memories of peach melba, Bala, and such gorgeous photos - my eyes opened with wonder as I sat here, by chance, eating a peach yogurt during a lunch break! Also reminded me of enjoying peach pie together at a local bakery in Baltimore (more than one serving, but shh...) and calling home to India. Sounds like the Dasaprakash needs to be added to my "bucket list" (or a visit to Bala's during peach season 😉

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Jeff,
      Lovely to hear from you. Just as lovely is the memory you describe in Baltimore; I think about it for sure!

      Unfortunately, Hotel Dasaprakash is no longer in existence in Chennai.

      I look forward to meeting you sooner rather than later.

      Reply
  2. Nirmala vani

    Hi Bala the picture you have posted of the peach Melba is mouth watering and a treat to the eye -so beautifully crafted.
    Yes it brings back memory of Dasaprakash and Jaffer's the two famous ice cream parlours in the early days in Madras.
    It was mostly a family treat celebrating an achievement or a crossing a milestone. It was mostly a movie or a trip to the Marina beach followed by icecream at either one of the most talked about icecream parlour. Thanks for bringing back beautiful memories and a smile to my face.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Hello,
      I've heard so much about Jaffer's at Elphinston from family that I can relate to what you're saying and, I can only imagine what a delight it was! Dasaprakash, of course, I can relate to from direct childhood experiences. Thank you for your comment.
      Bala

      Reply

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