Dame Nellie Melba, the Australian opera singer, gave her name not only to this dessert but also to Melba toast. The famous chef Auguste Escoffier of the Savoy was given tickets to see her perform in Lohengrin at Covent Garden in 1894 and the following day he created peach Melba - a perfect marriage of peach, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce. Unfortunately, today, it's as likely to consist of uncreamy ice cream, tinned peaches and sickly raspberry topping.
Even for properly made peach Melba the peaches will often have been poached in sugar syrup. Ripe peaches just need blanching, but you'll have to poach them if the peaches aren't ripe - as is usually the case with supermarket ones. If you need to do this then cover your peaches with boiling water and about 120g sugar and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until tender.
2 large ripe peaches
4 scoops of good quality vanilla ice cream
100ml double cream
30g caster sugar
2-3 drops of vanilla essence
for the Melba sauce
150g caster sugar
First make the sauce. Put 50g of the raspberries in a pan with the sugar and water, bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. Blend the cooked raspberries and syrup with the uncooked raspberries in a liquidiser until smooth then strain through a fine-meshed sieve.
If the peaches are ripe bring a pan of water to the boil, drop them in and simmer for 50-60 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into cold water. Now peel off the skins. They should come away easily; if not give them a little more time in the water. Halve them with a knife and carefully remove the stone. If the peaches aren't ripe you'll have to poach them (as above) then leave to cool and slip off the skins.
Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla essence until stiff.
To serve, cut the peach halves in half again and place into coupe glasses or similar. Divide the whipped cream between the four glasses - if you want to be fancy you can pipe it round the peach slices - then put a ball of ice cream on top. Spoon the raspberry sauce over the ice cream and serve immediately.