I always seemed to have nectarines in my lunchbox during the last few weeks of school. Now, one bite of this tender, aromatic, delicate fruit communicates an unmistakable message to me: summer is here.
Summer seems to have been here in Britain for ages - it's been coming and going. This weekend though, I bought my first punnet of summer fruits for 2011. There were about 9 nectarines in there, just beginning to soften. Being the frugal foodie that I am, the thought of these little bundles of deliciousness going mouldy and being wasted brought me close to tears, so I delved into my books in search of a way of using them up without losing any of their flavour or summeriness.
I found the perfect solution in my favourite book, Nigel Slater's Appetite: poached fruit.
Nigel suggests using peaches, but I thought that with few tweaks in flavouring, nectarines would work just as well. This is a very simple way to use up summer fruit - I actually feel that the fruity experience is improved with the addition of a sticky pink syrup.
Poached summer fruit.
(Adapted from Nigel Slater's Appetite)
Flavouring, (I used a couple of pieces of lemon zest and a little vanilla paste - but Nigel also suggests lime leaves, cinammon, or a few pieces of root ginger. It's up to you and your judgement.)
Some summer fruits, (nectarines, peaches, plums...I could go on)
Cover the base of a deep frying pan with sugar, and pour about four times as much water over the top. Put the pan over a low to medium heat and allow it all to dissolve. Let the syrup cool down a little and give it a taste. Is it too sweet? Add more water. Is it not sweet enough? Add more sugar and allow that to dissolve too. While the sugar is dissolving, use the time to prepare your fruit - half it and remove the stones.
Bring the syrup up to a boil and add your chosen flavourings. I found that the citrus of the lemon zest complimented the nectarines beautifully, while the vanilla paste added warmth and a little depth to the flavour. Put your fruit into the sugared water, turn the heat down and simmer for about twenty minutes.
Serve with a scoop of ice-cream for dessert, or with yogurt for breakfast. What a treat. My packet of nectarines was £2, everything else was in my kitchen anyway - and worth pennies. Make these tomorrow.