peach melba

A London recipe: Peach Melba

The dish is named after Auguste Escoffier, who was a well-known French chef. The dish was invented by Escoffier at the Savoy hotel in the 1890’s and created especially for Australia opera singer Dame Nellie Melba.

Nellie Melba, an operatic soprano, was featured in Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, which was staged at Covent Garden in the year 1892. In honour of the event, Escoffier gave Nellie a dessert consisting of fresh peaches served over vanilla ice cream in a silver plate perched atop an ice sculpture of a swan, which is a character in the opera. The swan was carved out of ice. He first referred to the meal as Pêche au cygne, which literally translates to “peach with a swan.”

A few years later, Escoffier devised a new version of the dessert: when Escoffier and César Ritz founded the Ritz Carlton in London. Escoffier created a new version of the dish. Pêche Melba was rechristened by Escoffier after he made a few adjustments to the original recipe, including the addition of a topping consisting of sweetened raspberry purée.


Ingredients and Instruction


White wine, 300 millilitres

200 grammes of caster sugar the rind of one lemon

4 ripe peaches, split in half and the stones removed from each one

250g raspberries

1 teaspoon of powdered sugar to be mixed with vanilla ice cream, to serve

In a saucepan, combine the wine, sugar, and 200 millilitres of water. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring on a regular basis, until the sugar has dissolved. Include the peel from the lemon. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer for as long as desired. Poach the peaches until they are soft, approximately ten minutes, or a little longer if your peaches aren’t quite ripe yet. Add the peaches with the cut side down.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the peaches from the poaching liquid, and set the liquid aside. After the fruit has cooled down, peel the peach skins and throw them away; they should come off easily, like Dame Nellie throwing off a fur. The peaches should then be stored in the refrigerator until they are required.

Using a food processor or a blender, create a smooth purée of the raspberries by combining them with four tablespoons of the poaching liquid. To remove the seeds, pass the mixture through a sieve into a basin and then strain the liquid. Mix in the powdered sugar for the frosting, then give it a taste and see if it needs any further sweetening.

This can be served by placing two peach halves in individual serving bowls and then adding a generous scoop of ice cream and sprinkling Raspberry sauce on top.

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