Peach Melba is a delicious French dessert prepared with peaches that are served with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.
What is the origin of Peach Melba?
In the 1890s, Australian soprano Nellie Melba, whose real name was Helen “Nellie” Porter Mitchell, used to perform at Covent Garden in London. At each of her visits, she dined at French chef Auguste Escoffier’s restaurants.
The history of peach Melba (pêche Melba in French) is reminiscent of the history of pavlova, this dessert from New Zealand (or Australia depending on who you ask) that was named in honor of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
The first version of peach Melba was created by Chef Escoffier in 1892 when he was the chef at the restaurant of the Savoy Hotel. Nellie had sent tickets to the chef to attend the concert of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. In this production, a swan-shaped boat was being featured. The next night, Auguste Escoffier showcased a dessert with fresh peaches and vanilla ice cream presented in a silver dish perched on a swan ice. This dessert was originally called “Pêche au Cygne” (Peach with the swan) by the chef.
A few years later in 1900, when Chef Escoffier opened the Ritz Carlton restaurant in London with his partner Cesar Ritz, he slightly changed the dessert by adding sweetened raspberry puree. He then renamed the dessert peach Melba.
Chef Escoffier’s peach Melba recipe that is published in his memoirs is almost similar to the one we know today with a couple exceptions. It seems that the chef favored fresh peaches that were barely blanched and peeled, and then dusted with sugar rather than peaches cooked in a sweet syrup. Also, almonds that are called for in the original recipe are fresh almonds. I like to stay true to the original recipes but I made a small exception this time to rather feature the modern version of peach Melba, which is the one we all familiar with.
My best friend Paul and his girlfriend Nathalie came to see us in Los Angeles over the past two weeks. The opportunity to organize food orgies at home… including peach Melba which were devoured by everyone. An easy to make dessert that will surely satisfy your guests.
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in French cuisine, Chef Simon. You can find Chef Simon on his website Chef Simon – Le Plaisir de Cuisiner.
- 4 peaches (relatively firm)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean , split in half lengthwise and scraped
- 7 oz raspberries
- ½ cup icing sugar
- ½ lemon
- 1½ cup vanilla ice cream
- 1½ cup whipped cream
- 3 oz. sliced almonds
- Bring water to a boil in a saucepan.
- Dip the peaches for 3 to 5 minutes or longer if the peaches are very firm.
- Remove the peaches from the saucepan and peel.
- Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit.
In another saucepan, bring 1 quart (1l) of water to a boil with the sugar and vanilla (including the bean).
- Dip the peach halves, reduce heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the peaches are still firm but a knife can pierce them easily.
- Set saucepan aside. Leave the peaches in the saucepan to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix the raspberries with the juice of half a lemon and icing sugar to get the raspberry puree.
- Place a peach in a bowl.
- Top with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
- Finish with some raspberry puree and sliced almonds.