Mangoes, peaches, plums, melons, apricots and cherries - even tomatoes; the best way to eat them is to pop them straight into your mouth from the tree or bush and savour them just as the man upstairs intended. Bite into them, let the natural juices drip all over your face, hands and arms and make a right, terrible mess. This to me is the essence of summer.
Yes, there's nothing better than getting down and dirty with your fruit (don't worry mum, it'll come out in the wash). Like a 4-year-old, I'm a sleeve-face-wiper.
Some of my best childhood memories are of plucking strawberries, raspberries and blueberries from a pick-your-own farm, where I certainly would have consumed more walking the paddock than I paid for at the end. I'd leave with mouth, lips and cheeks covered in vibrant berry colours with the hint of a stomach ache (well deserved).
As I'm writing this, my keyboard is covered in the juice of my personal favourite - the peach. As an adult, there are few pleasures I look more forward to each year than the first bite of a summer peach. And while you can't beat the taste of a fuzzy, ripe peach there's so much more you can do with this fruit. A personal summer-time favourite is a salad made up of of iceberg lettuce, shaved radish, chunks of avocado and peach with a Dijon mustard dressing - it's a barbecue winner.
But the recipe I'll leave you with is one I discovered at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape in late November. A good friend of mine, chef Sat Bains, showed me this simple yet versatile treatment. This peach dish can be eaten alone as a dessert, or as a sweet side element to accompany chicken, duck or even leftover ham. Enjoy!
Roast peaches in caramel with mascarpone mousse
4 peaches, peeled and halved (see below for how-to tips)
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp butter
100ml verjuice or white wine
2 pinches salt
For the mousse
50g icing sugar
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean –preferably Heilala vanilla (optional)
1 leaf gelatine, soaked
It may seem tiresome to peel the peaches but believe me it makes all the difference. Score the peaches with a cross at the top of the fruit. In a large pot bring water to the boil, submerge them for ten seconds then place into iced water bath. Take out after one minute, then peel and halve the fruit.
To make the caramel
Add the sugar to a flat frying pan and place on a medium flame. Once the sugar starts to turn a little brown add the peaches, cut-side down, and the bay leaves, cook them for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar starts to turn to a light brown caramel.
Add the butter and the verjuice and cook for a further 2-3 minutes then take off. The liquid is perfect for savoury or sweet dishes.
For the mousse
In a bowl whip together the mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla seeds.
In a small pot gently heat the cream, then add the gelatine and stir until dissolved. Cool slightly then whip into the mascarpone mix and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
To plate, place the peaches in a serving bowl, dollop the mousse over and pour some of the juices on top.