8 June 2010
I've had a bit of a love / hate thing with peaches over the years. Like many a child of the 70s, I grew up wolfing slippery, syrupy slices from the tin. In my naive fashion though, I couldn't face the "real" version. I think it was something to do with the fur but look, I was only five and, as my mum still loves to tell people, at that point my idea of culinary pleasure was luncheon meat and mash potato.
As this blog - and a series of discarded jeans with increasing waist sizes - proves, those days are long behind me and, with the exception of Marmite (yeast is something you'd avoid as an infection, not slather on toast), there's not much I haven't eaten / wouldn't eat.
Funnily enough, while I adored ketchup on that luncheon meat and, particularly, mixed into the mash (what can I say, I liked pink grub), I couldn't face tomatoes at that point either. Now though, I'll argue that life doesn't get much better than a ripe, sweet tom, whether sliced and drizzled in olive oil, oozing from the sides of a toasted tomato sandwich with lots of rock salt, black pepper and heart-stopping quantities of mayonnaise, or any other way you choose to worship this gorgeous fruit.
If I was to tell that chubby six-year old that one day he'd be waxing lyrical about tomatoes and peach TOGETHER, he'd have probably laughed. Or vomited. Or, most likely, a spectacularly messy combination of the two.
The combination was one of, if not the highlight of the aforementioned Sani Resort trip. Our final meal was prepared by the brilliant and scarily cheerful Maria Elia who, she informed us, has actually left Whitechapel Gallery with a view to opening her own restaurant. On this showing, it's going to become a regular haunt of mine.
Sadly - because deleting single pics and a little bit too much fine wine don't mix, kids - I managed to wipe the photographic evidence of a spectacular dinner so, as penance, I tracked down the recipe for the dazzling Chilled Tomato, Peach and Ginger soup that formed one small shot of the "Textures of Tomato" starter. It's taken from her book The Modern Vegetarian (which on this evidence is the best £10.21 you'll spend in many a week) and it's a little cracker. I've taken a small liberty in the below interpretation because I'm not one for exact measurements (it's soup, people, not science) and, while I like the heat provided by the chilli in the original recipe, Mrs L took one sip and did that eye-popping thing I'd previously only seen in Tex Avery cartoons hence I've suggested dropping it and adding a smidge more ginger, but see what your palate can take. Obviously.
Maria Elia's Chilled Tomato, Peach and Ginger Soup
Shallots - around eight, finely sliced
An inch (and a bit) of peeled, finely sliced ginger
A load of tomatoes - about a kilo
8-10 ripe peaches
4 sliced garlic cloves
Pinch of sugar
Salt & Pepper
Basil leaves (Thai if you can get it)
If you've made soup before, you can pretty much guess what to do here. First, heat a little oil and gently cook the shallots and ginger for around 15 minutes until soft and gently caramelised.
While they're doing their sticky, sweet thing, prep the tomatoes and peaches. Boil the kettle and, while that's happening, core the tomatoes and cut a cross in the base, and do the same thing with the peaches. Pour the boiling water into a bowl, drop in the tomatoes, leave for about 30 seconds and fish them out. Do the same with the peaches, but you'll have to leave them about a minute to loosen the skins.
Before you peel your star ingredients, throw the garlic (and single red chilli, sliced in half and de-seeded, if you're going for it) in with the shallots and give it another five minutes of cooking. While that's happening, peel and chop the tomatoes and add them, and any juices on the chopping board, to the pan. Remove the peach stones (but frankly if you need me to tell you that, you're probably not ready to cook anything) and attack your peaches with a big knife and add to the pan. Add sugar, sea salt and about 650ml of water, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes.
If you've added the chilli, fish it out now, then puree the vibrant, colourful contents of the pan. If it's a little thick, just add a splash more water (see sarcastic aside above), then season to taste (ditto) and refrigerate. To serve, pour into bowls (yes, I am being facetious now) and garnish with the basil, a little chopped peach, tomato, etc. Sit back, enjoy, and imagine you're looking out over something like this...
Summery bliss in a bowl.