"Hallelujah!" Aunt Spiker shouted. "What a peach! What a peach!" "Terrifico!" Aunt Sponge cried out, "Magnifico! Splendifico! And what a meal!" "It's still growing!" "I know! I know!" As for James, he was so spellbound by the whole thing that he could only stand and stare and murmur quietly to himself, "Oh, isn't it beautiful. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl, Chapter 7
It's relatively rare that a large piece of fruit has a starring role in a story. James' giant peach goes through a string of tremendously fantastic events - it grows to an enormous size on a tree that has previously never borne fruit, is the cause of death for James' two terrible aunts, becomes the home for a gang of giant arthropods, is attacked by a school of sharks and is carried by hundreds of birds across the Atlantic, before finally being consumed by thousands of children in Central Park. Quite the journey.
To my mind, the adventure couldn't have happened to a nicer piece of fruit. There is little better than a ripe peach - a perfect one is fragrant and warm, and bound to send delicious juice all the way down your chin on first bite. The smell of a ripe peach screams summer, and demands to be eaten with little ceremony - though perhaps out in the garden, so the grass catches the drips. However, if you get your hands on a box of them, allow them to ripen (in the shade and in one layer, rather than on top of each other, as they bruise incredibly easily) roast them, and stir them through a custard to make this ice cream. It's a joyful summer treat.
Roasted Peach and Brandy Ice-cream
8 ripe peaches
5tbsp caster sugar
200ml full cream milk
3 egg yolks
230ml double cream
Food processor or blender (or - if you don't have one - a chopping board and large knife)
Spatula Ice-cream maker (or electric hand whisk)
Plastic container (around 2L)
1. Heat your oven to 220C. Slice the peaches in half, remove the stones and place them cut side up in the roasting tray. Sprinkle 2tbsp of the sugar over the peaches and place in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until you can easily slip the peaches out of their skins.
2. Remove the peaches from the oven and, when they're cool enough to handle, push their skins off and blitz them in the food processor (or chop very finely). Place the chopped peach into a bowl and add the brandy.
3. Heat the milk in the saucepan over a low heat until almost simmering. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until light. Pour the milk over the egg yolks and sugar, whisking continually as you do so. Wash up the saucepan and then pour the custard back into it and place it back over a very low heat. Stir continually until the custard thickens (it should coat the back of the spoon once it is ready). Take the custard off the heat and pour it into a clean bowl - as it will continue to cook, and curdle, if you leave it in the hot pan.
4. Once the custard has cooled, stir in the peach purée. Whip the cream until thick and fold this through the custard too.
5. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn until it has set. Place in the freezer for a couple of hours before serving.
Alternative instructions without an ice-cream maker Prepare the ice-cream mixture through to the end of step 4. Place the mix in the plastic container in the freezer. After half an hour, remove the ice-cream and beat with the electric hand whisk. Place the ice-cream back in the freezer. Repeat every half hour for three hours, and then leave for another couple of hours in the freezer to harden.