sucrée / salée : salade de pêches au basilic; tarte de pêches, jambon et mozzarella

3 Aug

Squeezing peaches feels somehow illicit. A tray of furry backsides waiting to be delicately palpated. Are they ripe yet?

The French word for a peach is very close to un péché, or a sin. And to fish, pêcher. (Can someone who likes etymology enlighten me before I make a bad pun?) (And if I do make a bad pun, does that mean I am finally French?)

In any case, no sin here. Maybe a little ambiguity. Two simple recipes that can’t decide if they are sweet or savoury. The peach and basil salad would be equally delicious with a wedge of gruyère as with some vanilla icecream. The tart combines the salty attack of Parma ham with the sweetness of roast peach, all covered with a subtle blanket of mozzarella.*

Use ripe, juicy peaches since they are the star of the show. And squeeze gently.

Peach and basil salad

at least 4 ripe peaches

several leaves of basil

a glug of olive oil

juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Cut the peaches into thick slices or chunks. Tear the basil into small shreds. (Tearing apparently releases the flavour better than cutting.) Toss with the olive oil and lemon then season with a little salt and pepper. Let it stand for a hour so that the flavous meld.

Note: Rosemary can also perfume this salad, except that the spines are less pleasant to eat.


Peach tart with prosciutto and mozzarella

(simplified from Victoria O’Neill’s soon-to-be published debut cookbook)

1 quantity puff or shortcrust pastry (bought or homemade)

1 packet of Parma ham / prosciutto crudo / air-dried ham

1 or 2 balls fresh mozzarella

at least 4 ripe peaches

fresh herbs (thyme is good)

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle or circle. Grease a large baking tray or tart pan and gently lift the pastry onto it. Cover with a single layer of ham slices. Cut the peaches into thick wedges (6-8 per peach) and line them up in rows or circles on top of the ham. Tear the mozzarella into chunks and scatter over peaches. Finally sprinkle over some thyme (or other herbs) with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven until the pastry is brown and the cheese bubbling. Leave it to cool a little, then cut into wedges and serve just warm.

*Please excuse the overblown mixed metaphor. It’s very hot today.

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