Thus far I’ve steered clear of fruit. For the despicable likes of me fruit is a minefield of lewd cliches and sexual analogies, and I want to avoid becoming a poor caricature of myself.
I couldn’t continue to ignore the syrupy delights of cooked fruit and its place in the savoury canon. I knew someone once who couldn’t stand the combination of fruit and cheese, considering it to be akin to that picture of the rat with an ear on its back – each element good, useful & natural in isolation but abhorrent when combined.
I made this as an antidote to the meat feast that comprises your average student barbecue. My housemates and I had invited around 25 people with instructions to bring booze. We’d each shopped separately for food, and our kitchen top was stacked high with burgers, chicken thighs, sausages and various ingredients for chunky veggie kebabs.
It was all looking rather daunting. Where amongst these chunks of protein and carbohydrate would I find a little light relief – something to encourage my tastebuds out of their charcoal stupor and prepare them for the next onslaught?
Luckily, there’s a tiny man with all of his teeth crammed into an inch of space just left of centre in his mouth who hawks under-ripe peaches at Archway station. Under-ripe peaches are the most appropriate for this dish – their tartness works nicely with the salty feta and the sweet honey alongside the smokiness the barbecue imparts. They’re also less likely to collapse like a fake tit on a plane once you start cooking them.
Barbecued Peach Salad with Feta, Fresh Herbs & Toasted Walnuts
- 10 not-quite-ripe peaches, de-stoned and quartered
- A big handful of pea shoots
- A big handful of fresh basil leaves
- A big handful of fresh mint leaves
- 200g walnut kernels
- 300g feta cheese
- A good big glug of olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- The juice of half a lemon
- Dried chilli flakes
- 1 heaped tsp ras-el-hanout
- Dash of balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
In large flat dish, mix the honey, balsamic, lemon juice and olive oil to a thin but sticky consistency – it shouldn’t drip too easily from a spoon. Add the ras-el-hanout, dried chilli flakes, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper to taste. Roll the quartered peaches in the mixture, making sure they’re all properly coated before covering and putting to one side.
Get steadily more drunk for an hour or so, being careful to keep a steady hand because you’re going to be dealing with fire et cetera.
Come back to the peaches once the barbecue is properly up to heat. In a big salad bowl, mix the herb leaves and pea shoots. Crumble in the feta. Reserving the marinade, place the peach quarters on the barbecue, flesh side down. They should sizzle. After a few minutes, check them for colour – you’ll want to turn them when the flesh is dark and a little blistered.
Whilst the peaches are cooking, heat a dry pan over a medium heat and add the walnuts. Keep them moving and don’t let them take on any colour. The toasted walnuts should be warm and smell a little like Christmas.
Combine the cooked peaches, the walnuts, the fresh herb leaves, pea shoots and the cheese. Taste the marinade and adjust seasoning & consistency for dressing. You’ll probably need a dash more olive oil and possibly a touch more balsamic. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve with whatever horrible paint-stripper your friends could afford.