No problem - she took a home-made pizza from the freezer, popped it in the oven, tossed together a salad, produced a fat round loaf from Farro Fresh, et voila - a great lunch.
I had my neighbour in for dinner before I flew off. Thinking about dessert, I suddenly remembered that I had two Black Boy peaches in the fridge - they'd been hard when I bought them, so I stowed them away for later. They have a very short season (probably over for this year, look out for them next March). For the last wedding anniversary dinner I had with Harvey in March 2010, I'd used them to make a dessert from the Les Mimosas cookbook he'd bought me a few years back.
It was written by two New Zealanders who "followed their dream", buying a nineteenth century house in Languedoc and turning it into a guest house serving "good, honest cuisine". (My first reaction when I read about people like this is always pure envy - then I think of all the hard work.) It's a lovely book, arranged by seasons.
The recipe calls for "peches de vigne" - pink-skinned, white-fleshed peaches which grow in vineyards (and are known locally as "les tétons de Vénus" - Venus's nipples). But The Eco Gardener, a blog written by my old friend Christine Dann, says that a red-fleshed form of the vineyard peach, which seems to be much the same as the Black Boy, "has been commercialised in Soucieu-en-Jarest, the self-styled capital of the Peche de Vigne". So perhaps I'm using a true vineyard peach after all. She also says that the name "Black Boy" seems to be a totally New Zealand thing, and New Zealand is the current world capital for this variety.
Peaches poached in muscat
4 ripe but firm Black Boy peaches, washed and dried
250 ml water
200g white sugar (the recipe says 250g but I find this a bit too sweet)
1 split vanilla pod (I used vanilla paste instead)
juice of 1 lemon
1 fresh bay leaf
150ml muscat wine (or another good dessert wine)
(the original recipe also has star anise, but I intensely dislike aniseed flavour, so I leave this out)
- Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring so that all the sugar dissolves.
- Add the vanilla, lemon juice, bay leaf, and 100ml of the muscat.Then add the peaches and adjust the heat so that the liquid is gently simmering. Depending on the size of the peaches, they will take about 20 minutes to cook. (I found I had to turn the peaches so as to make sure they were evenly cooked.)
- Carefully lift the peaches out of the syrup with a slotted spoon. Put aside to cool.
- Continue to reduce the syrup, raising the heat, until the liquid has reduced by two-thirds (be careful not to reduce it too much).
- Stir in the last 50ml of muscat. Sieve the liquid into a jug and leave it to cool.
- When the peaches are cool, carefully remove their skins - they should slide off easily.
- Either slice the peaches in half and remove the stones, or leave them whole. Place two halves or a whole peach in each shallow dessert bowl or plate and pour the syrup over. Serve with a small glass of lightly chilled muscat or dessert wine. The colour is astonshing and the flavour is - Venusian.