- 350g ready-made white marzipan
One of mankind’s oldest sources of sweet pleasure, marzipan needs to contain only ground…
- a little sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is made from pressing sunflower seeds and extracting the oil. It's usually…
- a little icing sugar, for rolling and sweetening
- 200g granulated sugar
- 1 small lemon (juice, optional)
Oval in shape with a pronouced bulge on one end, lemons are one of the most versatile…
- a large bunch (about 50g) fresh basil
Most closely associated with Mediterranean cooking but also very prevalent in Asian food, the…
- 4 large fairly firm peaches, yellow or white
Sweet, juicy and fragrant, peaches are one of the most beautiful fruit around. Around the size…
- 500ml tub good-quality vanilla ice cream (you may not use it all)
The sun-dried seed pod of a type of climbing orchid, vanilla has an inimitable soft, sweet…
- 250g fresh raspberry, plus 125g extra for serving
A member of the rose family, raspberries have a wonderfully intense, sweet taste, and many…
- 1-2 tbsp Framboise, Grand Marnier or white rum
Brush the insides of 8 fluted tartlet cases (preferably loose-bottomed, about 6-7cm in diameter) lightly with a little oil, then line the bases with discs of non-stick baking paper. Dust the worktop lightly with sifted icing sugar and roll the marzipan out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out eight circles using an 9.5cm cutter (use a small saucer as a template if you don’t have a large enough cutter), re-rolling the marzipan trimmings if necessary.
Fit the marzipan circles into each tartlet case, pressing lightly into the sides. If you have time, leave them to dry out overnight, uncovered, in the fridge.
Using a blowtorch, brown each case evenly until it turns a caramel colour. Wait a few moments to cool until the marzipan starts to harden before turning out. These can be made up to 4-5 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Heat the sugar and 500ml water slowly in a saucepan until the sugar starts to dissolve, stirring once or twice. Meanwhile, peel 3 or 4 strips of zest from the lemon using a swivel peeler, and drop into the sugar and water. When the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture to the boil, then boil for about 5 minutes so you have a medium-strength syrup. Pick out a good handful of small basil leaves and reserve for decoration. Put the rest of the basil leaves and stalks into the hot syrup.
Make a small criss-cross on the top of each peach (this helps the skins burst when cooking, so they are easier to peel). Slip the peaches into the syrup so they fit quite snugly together in a single layer. Cover with foil, then poach on a low heat for 15-20 minutes, depending on the ripeness, checking if done with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove the peaches to a bowl with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.
When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off each peach. Cut in half and twist to separate the halves then remove the stones. Strain the syrup back over the peaches and allow them to cool to room temperature so they take on the flavour. You can do this overnight if you want to get ahead, but return to room temperature.
Thaw the ice cream for 15-20 minutes then beat it until slightly slushy. Scoop the softened ice cream into a large piping bag fitted with a medium star-nozzle and, working very quickly, pipe a nest of ice cream into the tartlet cases (or drop spoonfuls into each case to cover). Return the cases to the freezer and freeze until the ice cream is firm – allow at least an hour. Or they can now be frozen for up to 2 days.
Whizz the raspberries in a blender. Start on low and gradually increase, adding 4 tbsp syrup to thin a little. Add alcohol. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, rubbing with the back of a spoon. Add lemon juice and icing sugar to taste if needed.
Just before serving, remove 8 of the best peach halves from the syrup. Put the frozen filled tartlet cases onto 8 small plates and leave for about 5 minutes to soften. Sit a peach half on top of each tartlet. Arrange the reserved raspberries and basil around each tart. Spoon a little Melba sauce over each peach, but don’t flood them. Finish with a light sifting of icing sugar and serve immediately, handing round extra sauce in a small jug.
For easy-to-brown tartlet casesUsing marzipan as a container is easier than making pastry, and you don’t need to bake it – you can caramelise it instead (the icing sugar helps this). Don’t hold the blowtorch too close, and keep moving it, or the marzipan will get scorched.
To add fragrant flavour to poached fruitCooking and cooling peaches in flavoured syrup intensifies their taste. In summer I use basil, lemon balm, lemongrass or mint, and in autumn sturdier varieties such as cinnamon, cloves, rosemary and star anise.
For perfectly poached peachesChoose ones that are ripe yet still a little firm. To prevent bruising while poaching, it’s a good idea to poach more peaches than you need so they have a snug fit in the pan. Leftovers can be chilled in the strained syrup and used within 3 days. If you cut out a large round of greaseproof paper or foil bigger than the top of the pan, cut a small hole in the middle, then scrunch it on top of the peaches, they will cook better as the foil will hold them under the syrup while poaching.
To remove the marzipan casesThe easiest way is to loosen the tops with the tip of a vegetable peeler, or small knife, then carefully ease it out.