There is a famous dessert that was invented by a famous French chef after a famous soprano – the Peach Melba. It was invented in 1892 or 1893 by the French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel, London to honour the Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. It combines two favourite summer fruits: peaches and raspberry sauce accompanying vanilla ice cream.
In 1892, Nellie Melba was performing in Wagner's opera Lohengrin at Covent Garden. The Duke of Orléans gave a dinner party to celebrate her triumph. For the occasion, Escoffier created a new dessert, and to display it, he used an ice sculpture of a swan, which is featured in the opera. The swan carried peaches which rested on a bed of vanilla ice cream and which were topped with spun sugar.
In 1900, Escoffier created a new version of the dessert. For the occasion of the opening of the Carlton hotel, where he was head chef, Escoffier omitted the ice swan and topped the peaches with raspberry purée.
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 and fine mesh 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.