Dame Nellie Melba, Australian opera singer, in costume
Famous French chef, Auguste Escoffier, created "Peach Melba" for Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba, who dined at his restaurants in London in the late 1890's and early 1900's.
"Dame Nellie Melba (1861–1931) was probably the most famous soprano in the world in the early decades of the twentieth century. Born Helen Porter Mitchell, she took the stage name of Melba as a contraction of her native city of Melbourne. She was based in Europe for long periods but toured Australia extensively. Melba worked tirelessly to raise funds for charities in Australia during World War I. In 1920, she became the first artist of international reputation to participate in direct radio broadcasts." Source: Museum of Australian Currency
(adapted from Escoffier's Peach Melba on The History Kitchen on PBS)
4 ripe, tender peaches
1-2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 pint vanilla ice cream like Ben & Jerry's
12 ounces fresh ripe raspberries
1 heaping cup of powdered sugar
4 T. slivered almonds, toasted
Note: Make the raspberry sauce and peel/sugar the peaches, at least an hour before your serve the dessert, i.e., be sure to do it ahead of time.
*There are many suggestions as to the best and easiest way to peel peaches, with most references recommending blanching then shocking them in cold water, to make the peel easy to remove. I have always found that if I am patient and careful, I can just peel them with a good paring knife.
For the almond topping, spread the almonds in one layer and either toast them in a toast oven or regular oven, just until they begin to color. Watch them carefully, and don't let them burn. I noticed that Escoffier called for raw blanched almonds, but toasting them always brings out more flavor.
For the ice cream, you can make your own from scratch like Escoffier did, but with so many good options available in the supermarket, we chose Ben&Jerry's Vanilla.
To assemble the dessert:
Choose a nice vertical glass dish so you can see the layers.
Place one big scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom.
Add the raspberry sauce.
Place a peach half to the side, so you can still see the raspberry sauce and ice cream, sort of like a hat.
Then, sprinkle the toasted almonds on top.
I can't believe it took me this long to discover Peach Melba.