The story goes that Mr. Escoffier heard her perform in London and was inspired to create a desert in her honor. Rumor had it that Ms. Melba loved ice cream but didn't eat it very often for fear of damaging her vocal chords. The warmed sauce and peaches were combined to take the cold edge off the ice cream and present a special treat for the opera singer.
While descriptions indicated that the original Peach Melba sauce was made with raspberries, currant jelly, sugar and cornstarch, I found a recipe from Nigella Lawson and followed it to the letter.
For the Peaches
3 cups water
3 1/2 c. superfine sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
For the raspberry sauce
3 cups raspberries
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 large container of vanilla ice cream
Put the water, sugar lemon juice and vanilla bean into a wide saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring the pan to a boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes, then turn the pan down to a fast simmer.
Cut the peaches in half, and, if the pits come out easily remove them, if not, then you can get them out later. Poach the peach halves in the sugar syrup for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Test the cut side with the sharp point of a knife to see if they are soft, and then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
When all the peaches are poached, peel off their skins and let them cool (and remove any remaining pits). If you are making them a day in advance, let the poaching syrup cool and then pour into a dish with the peaches. Otherwise, just bag up the syrup and freeze it for the next time you are poaching peaches.
To make the raspberry sauce, puree the raspberries, confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a blender or else a food processor. Sieve to remove the seeds and pour this fantastically hued puree into a jug.
To assemble Peach Melba, allow two peach halves per person and sit them on each plate alongside a scoop or two of ice cream. Spoon the raspberry sauce over each one, and put the remaining puce-tinted sauce in a pitcher for people to add themselves at the table.
“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".