Love at first bite: Mark Hix cooks with peaches and nectarines

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My daily stroll through Berwick Street Market in Soho provides me with the occasional flash of inspiration. Sadly, the market isn't quite what it was when I first moved to London in the Eighties – back then Berwick Street was flourishing, with a couple of butchers and a dozen or so fruit and veg traders. Now, the stalls are thinner on the ground. But the other week a couple of the remaining stands were selling doughnut or flat peaches; there must be an abundance this year as I keep seeing them everywhere all over London. There were also delicious large golden apricots and nectarines and peaches, so I thought I would devote this week's column to these delicious fruits.

Peach Melba jelly

Serves 4

This is a bit of a take on a classic peach Melba that would be served in a coupe but I love having fun with jellies, as you know. If you haven't got the traditional Savarin moulds that I have used here, you could just set the jelly in cups and arrange the peach and ice-cream on plates or coupes.

2 large peaches
150ml white wine
200g granulated sugar
200g raspberries
4 scoops of good quality vanilla ice-cream
15g leaf gelatine (5 sheets)

Halve the peaches and remove the stone. Place them in a pan with the sugar and wine and add some water just to cover them. Bring to the boil and simmer for about ten minutes, then leave to cool. Once cool, remove the skins and put the peaches to one side. Pour the liquid into a measuring jug – you will need 600ml of liquid to make the jelly; if it's short just top up with water. To make the jelly, soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow bowl of cold water for a minute or so until soft, then squeeze out the water. Bring a quarter of the liquid to the boil, remove from the heat and stir in the gelatine until dissolved, then add the rest of the liquid. Put the jelly somewhere cool but do not let it set.

Arrange half of the raspberries between the jelly moulds, then pour in half of the cooled, but not set, jelly and rearrange the raspberries evenly in the moulds. Put in the fridge for an hour or so to set, then top up the moulds with the rest of the unset jelly. This allows the raspberries to stay suspended in the jelly and not float to the top. Return to the fridge.

Meanwhile blend the rest of the raspberries in a liquidiser to make a smooth purée. To serve, dip the moulds briefly in hot water and turn out the jellies on to cold serving plates. Spoon some of the purée into the centre and place a peach half on top, stone side up. Scoop a ball of ice-cream on to each peach and spoon a little more purée on top.

Nectarines with cured pork collar

Serves 4

Rather like a melon does, these smooth-skinned posh peaches go perfectly with cured meats. Any kind of cured meat from Parma ham to cured pork collar works well as a sweet and savoury combo and creates a great, simple and no-fuss dinner party starter. Ensure your nectarines are ripe, as supermarkets tend to sell hard fruits which have to be ripened at home.

4 medium-sized, ripe nectarines
20 slices of cured pork collar or 8 slices of cured ham

Halve the nectarines and remove the stone. Cut each half into three or four wedges and arrange on plates with the ham.

Roasted apricots with mascarpone and amaretti

Serves 4

There are some large deep golden apricots around, almost the size of peaches, which are perfect for this dessert as you can serve three halves for each person.

6 large golden apricots or 12 small ones
A few knobs of butter
150-180g mascarpone
8 amaretti biscuits

Pre-heat the oven to 240/gas mark 8. Halve the apricots; remove the stones. Arrange the apricots, cut side up in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray and place a little butter on each one. Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they begin to lightly colour, then remove and leave to cool a little. Meanwhile coarsely crush the amaretti biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin. To serve, arrange the apricots on serving plates and spoon over any cooking juices. Place a spoonful of mascarpone in the centre and scatter the amaretti over.

Doughnut peaches with Parmesan and balsamico

Serves 4

I served this dish at a dinner party one night, because I had some of these flat peaches to use up as well as some Parmesan, aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, all of which came from the the Fresh Olive Company after I made a trip to Italy with George Bennell.

6 doughnut or flat peaches
80-100g Parmegiano Reggiano
1tbsp or so of aged balsamic vinegar
1tbsp or so of extra virgin olive oil

Halve the peaches; remove the stone and break them into quarters. Arrange on plates, then with a peeler shave the Parmesan into thin slices. Spoon a little balsamic vinegar over the peaches and arrange the Parmesan over. Finish with a little olive oil and black pepper.

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