This is it - summer on a plate. Most days I take the view that cooking fruit rather loses the point of its delectable freshness, but this somehow intensifies it. Besides, most peaches are disappointingly hard or lacking in luscious peachiness, so poaching the fruit gives even lackluster peaches the boost they need, restoring them to their rightful glory.
for the peaches
3 cups water
3 ½ cups superfine sugar
juice of ½ lemon
1 vanilla bean (split lengthways)
for the raspberry sauce
3 cups raspberries
¼ cup confectioners' sugar
juice of ½ lemon
1 large tub vanilla ice cream
Put the water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean into a wide saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring the pan to the boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes, then turn the pan down to a fast simmer.
Cut the peaches in half, and, if the stones come out easily remove them, if not, then you can get them out later. Poach the peach halves in the sugar syrup for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Test the cut side with the sharp point of a knife to see if they are soft, and then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
When all the peaches are poached, peel off their skins and let them cool (and remove any remaining stones). If you are making them a day in advance, let the poaching syrup cool and then pour into a dish with the peaches. Otherwise just bag up the syrup and freeze it for the next time you poach peaches.
To make the raspberry sauce, liquidize the raspberries, confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a blender or else a processor. Sieve to remove the pips and pour this fantastically hued puree into a jug.
To assemble the peach melba, allow two peach halves per person and sit them on each plate alongside a scoop or two of ice cream. Spoon the raspberry sauce over each one, and put the remaining puce-tinted red sauce in a jug for people to add themselves at the table.