“Mastering the Art of French Cooking is just what the title says. It is how to produce really wonderful food –
food that tastes good, looks good, and is a delight to eat. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy cooking, although it can be as elaborate as you wish. It simply means careful cooking, la cuisine soignée, by people who know what they are doing.”
When the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961, Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle revolutionized the art of cooking at home. These women were motivated by their passion for delicious food, the finest ingredients, and simple cooking methods. They set out to create a sophisticated collection of recipes; that could be put to practical use by the ordinary housewife. The book has since become a standard of culinary excellence.
On the evening our copy arrived in the post, we eagerly looked through the pages of recipes. We chose Pêches Cardinal because of its beautiful simplicity. The result was light and refreshing, perfect for a summer’s day. The dessert was originally conceived in 1892 by the French chef, Auguste Escoffier in honour of the Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba. It was presented at a dinner party hosted by the Duke of’Orléans.
- 6 cups water
- 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 2 Tb vanilla extract or a vanilla bean
- A 12-inch saucepan
- 10 firm, ripe, unblemished, fresh peaches about 2 ½ inches in diameter
- A slotted spoon
- A cake rack
- A serving dish 2 inches deep
- 1-quart fresh raspberries, and 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- OR, 1 ½ lbs. frozen raspberries, thawed and well drained, and ⅔ cup sugar
- An electric blender (or electric beater)
- Optional: fresh mint leaves
- Simmer the water, sugar, and vanilla extract or bean in the saucepan and stir until sugar has dissolved.
- Add the unpeeled peaches to the simmering syrup. Bring again to the simmer, then maintain at just below the simmer for 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let peaches cool in syrup for 20 minutes. (Syrup may be used again for poaching other fruits.) Drain peaches on rack; peel while still warm, and arrange in serving dish. Chill.
- Force the raspberries through a sieve and place the purée in the jar of an electric blender along with the sugar. cover and blend at top speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until purée is thick and sugar has dissolved completely. Chill. (Or beat purée and sugar for about 10 minutes with an electric beater.)
- When both purée and peaches are chilled, pour the purée over the peaches and return to refrigerator until serving time. Decorate with optional fresh mint leaves.
- “This is an especially nice dessert when both peaches and raspberries are in season. Though the taste is not quite as good, you can substitute fresh apricots or pears for the peaches, or use canned fruit. Frozen raspberries do not make as thick a sauce as fresh ones, but are good anyway.”
- For elegant serving, we recommend scooping the ice cream and refreezing it in individual serving dishes before adding the peaches, raspberry sauce, and mint leaves. This will prevent the ice cream from melting too quickly before presenting. It would be very simple to adjust the quantity to accommodate both a dessert for two or a dinner party for twenty.