Peaches Melba

Rate this recipe

Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

By Annie Gray

Published 2019

  • About

Among the reasons Auguste Escoffier is still widely regarded as one of the key figures in Western cuisine are his simplification of late Victorian cookery and his introduction of fresh, zingy combinations. He invented this recipe, deservedly a classic, in honor of Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer who was the toast of Europe in the Downton era. It was designed for restaurant service—the components could be made in advance and assembled as needed—and is ideal for a Downton dinner, as it is both practical and delicious. Dame Nellie herself makes an appearance in season 4, where she bonds with Robert over the wine and performs after dinner at a private concert.


  • 4 large ripe peaches
  • 2 cups (480 ml) water
  • 1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Sauce

  • 1 cup (115 g) raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 generous scoops good-quality vanilla ice cream


Have ready a large bowl of ice water. Halve and pit the peaches. Pour the 2 cups (480 ml) water into a saucepan large enough to hold all the peach halves in a single layer and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the peaches, skin side down, to the boiling water and boil just until the skins begin to loosen, 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to the ice water to stop the cooking, reserving the water in the pan. Peel the peach halves (the skins should come off easily, thanks to the brief boil) and set them aside.

Add the superfine sugar and vanilla to the water in the pan and bring back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peach halves, reduce the heat to a simmer, and poach, turning the peaches once, until tender when pierced with a knife, 3–4 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and leave the peaches to steep for at least 30 minutes before serving. They can be kept in the syrup in the fridge for up to a couple of days.

To make the sauce, combine the raspberries, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and process until puréed, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove the seeds. Whisk to form a slightly frothy sauce. The sauce will also keep happily in the fridge for a couple of days.

Use individual bowls or glass dishes for serving. Put a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom, top with 2 peach halves, and finish with a generous spoonful of raspberry sauce. Serve immediately.

Part of