Gentleman's Portion

A good helping of life, love and whisky

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Peach pie reduxThis week’s peach lattice pie recipe was my most popular article in three months with readers, so without any further apologies, here’s another peach pie story and recipe.

We had a wonderful day out in Niagara-on-the-Lake earlier this week and discovered a new restaurant that could quickly become a favourite. Treadwell is the brainchild of fellow Brit, Stephen Treadwell, the former Executive Chef from the town’s Queen’s Landing Hotel. We remember it fondly from sailing trips to Port Dalhousie, where coincidentally we will be cruising again this weekend. At the beginning of the summer Treadwell re-opened in NOTL on the Queen Street restaurant and tourist strip. We are greeted by his friendly son James, co-owner and sommelier. James offers us a complimentary glass of Bubblehead sparkling rosé from John Howard’s local Megalomaniac winery.

It is perfect. Crisp and dry on the palate, with a hint of something to come in the effervescence.

Treadwell - tucked away behind Starbucks - needs better signage

Treadwell – tucked away behind Starbucks – needs better signage

But I crave a martini and ask James if his bartender would understand if I ordered a Gentleman’s Portion. Indeed she would, he claims, and Jamie the bartender delivers. My vodka martini on the rocks, in a rocks glass, with a twist of lemon, very dry and of sufficient size to quench my thirst, is exactly what I want. It’s well after the lunch hour when we eat, having been looking at houses all morning, so we share a nice green salad and both order fish and chips. All the food at Treadwell is locally sourced. Our fish is delicious and we follow with a spectacular and refreshing peach Melba (one portion, two spoons).

Good comfort food, as we sit on the patio and watch the passing parade of mostly obese American tourists. The way we’re eating, we might be joining them. I know the biggest lady we see is American. She’s got the American eagle and a stars and stripes flag tattooed right across her ample chest and bosom. I hate to think what else she has pictured, hidden away among the dimples of cellulite and rolls of fat.

Fortunately we are not driving but walking about town, having dropped the car off at our helpful real estate agent’s house earlier in our exploration. Patient Glenn from Sotheby’s nearly finds us a house, in what is billed as Ontario’s prettiest town. The cottage is cute beyond belief, but for various reasons we can’t close a deal. Back at his lakeside house, his charming wife Nancy pours Diane another glass of Bubblehead. Nancy’s an even hotter real estate agent than Glenn. We’ll be back, we tell them, as we head off to the highway and town, thanking them for their hospitality.

Treadwell's peach Melba

Treadwell’s peach Melba

With memories of peach Melba fresh in our heads, we pick up a ripe basket of very fresh Niagara peaches. Tonight they become the basis for another peach pie.

First, let’s talk about Peach Melba. It’s named after Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba and is shamelessly colourful. She was performing in an opera in London in the late 1890s and the Savoy Hotel’s French chef Auguste Escoffier created this dish to honour her. The blend of poached peaches, raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream creates a transcendent taste sensation.

Peach Melba
Serves 4
Preparation time 20 min

4 ripe peaches
1 cup simple syrup (dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of boiling water)
1 cup raspberry coulis (see my blog URGENT MESSAGE FROM THE DUCHESS on December 18, 2012 for the complete recipe)
Thin wafers or cookies of your choice
Vanilla ice cream

Preparation and cooking
1. Plunge the ripe peaches into boiling water for 30 secs, remove with a slotted spoon, then cool in icy water. The skins should slip off easily.
2. Cut the peaches in half, remove stones, and poach in a cup of boiling simple syrup for about 5 min. Remove from the syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside on a rack to cool. Once cooled, slice into eighths.
3. To serve, spoon the peach slices into a bowl or parfait glass (see photo for Treadwell’s take), cover with a good dollop of raspberry coulis, top with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and inset a triangular wafer into the ice cream. Finish with more raspberry coulis. Treadwell added crisp  chocolate cookies which were delicious, but made the whole thing a bit sweet. I prefer the traditional wafer, but it’s your choice. Anything crispy will suffice.

Peach Pie Redux
(See my blog ROADS LESS TRAVELLED on August 11, 2013 for my original recipe)
Following my effort earlier in the week and with some follow-up research, I’ve made some small changes to the recipe, which I offer here. See if you prefer the difference.
Some cooks feel the bottom pie shell should not be blind baked if a top is to be added, even a lattice. So this time, I roll out the pastry as before, but after pushing it well into the corners of a lightly greased pie dish, simply add the juicy sliced peach pie filling. One difference is that I don’t trim the pie yet.
Second change: after filling, I roll out the second half of my pie pastry recipe, moisten the edge of the bottom pie with milk, and lay on the top. After trimming all the way round with a sharp small knife, the pie top is crimped onto the bottom with a fork, to make a decorative edge. The left over pastry is rolled up and rolled out. Using the sharp knife, I cut out five small decorative peach leaves, score them to make a leaf pattern, moisten their backs with milk, and press them gently into the centre of the pie. Between the leaves, I cut slits to allow the steam to escape.
Third change: then I brush the whole pie with a thin layer of milk.
First, the pie goes into the oven for 20 min at 425°F (220°C). Since the edges are browning more quickly than the rest of the pie, it’s advisable to cover the whole edge of the pie with thin strips of foil.
Reduce the oven to 375°F (190°C) and cook for a further 30 min.
Remove and cool on a rack for a minimum of 3 hr before serving. It really does make a difference to the thickness of the sauce inside the pie.
Store lightly covered in the fridge and enjoy with vanilla ice cream.



Overlooking the Niagara River

Overlooking the Niagara River

We are driving around in the Jag, top down, having a spectacular day getting lost in the Niagara region and finding ourselves, quite by mistake, atop the Niagara Escarpment. There’s a spectacular view over orchards and vineyards with Lake Ontario stretching into a blue haze in the distance.

On a little country road, we almost run over a chicken crossing in front of us. It wants to get to the other side. We pull into a driveway and a bronzed farmer and two very cute blonde children come out of the house to see who has arrived. The farmer has a strong Manchester accent. Diane, who is from the North can tell immediately. She asks him how come he’s here and he tells about emigrating to a better place for his family and starting a farm. The chickens are completely free range, he says, confirming the obvious. His eldest sub-teen daughter collects the eggs every morning, diligently washes them, and gets the revenue from egg sales as pocket money. We buy a dozen rich brown eggs from her, all different sizes, but very clean.

He’s also got baskets of ripe peaches for sale and we buy two of those as well. We put them in the tiny trunk of the car, which is lined with a hand-made Persian carpet, as are the foot wells in front. The former Lancastrian finds it hard to believe that a Yorkshire lass can do so well as to have luxury carpets for mats in the car. He says so, but we are oblivious to the irony and are off out of his gravel driveway, tires spinning and a throaty growl from the exhaust, back on our journey to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We descend the Escarpment on a windy road and end up in the flat alluvial plain that leads down to the water.

We’re thinking of selling our Toronto townhouse and moving to this quaint small place. We meet with a real estate agent and look at properties. Nothing quite suits today, but perhaps something will be perfect on our next visit.

Home again, I look at the peaches, pick out eight perfectly ripe ones, squeeze them and smell their fragrance. These puppies are just right for a peach pie, I decide. And so to work. The classic peach pie needs only peaches and sugar. I add a very small measure of cinnamon and nutmeg to enhance the flavour, but nothing more.


Peach lattice pie

Peach lattice pie

Serves 6
Preparation time 30 min
Cooking time 40 min
Cooling down time 3 hr

5 cups (1.25 L) or about 8 medium ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
(NOTE: for a sweeter pie increase sugars to 1/3 cup each)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
9 in double crust pastry recipe (see my blog of January 25, 2013 – THE LIFE OF PIE) or use frozen pastry

Pastry toolPreparation and cooking
1. I’ve written before about making perfect pie pastry, so I will skip this stage, except for one hint. I have quite warm hands, which makes pastry blending difficult, so I have discovered a perfect tool for mixing in the butter (illustrated). It has made life much easier, without a sticky mess adhering to my hands.
2. Once you have the bottom layer of pastry pressed into the 9 in baking dish, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Prick the bottom of the pie with a fork to allow air to escape and blind bake for no more than 10 min, or until the shell is a light brown. Cool shell completely before adding filling.
3. While that is going on, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Dunk the ripe peaches into the boiling water and remove after a minute with a slotted spoon. The skins should slip right off. If they don’t, allow the peaches to cool and then peel with a small sharp knife. The problem is probably that the peaches were not quite ripe and you may want to add more sugar to your mixture to compensate. Slice the peaches into quarters to make pit removal easy and then slice again into thinner portions.
4. Put the sliced, skinless peaches into a large bowl, add the lemon juice, and toss to coat.
5. In a small bowl or measuring jug, mix the two sugars (you can increase the quantity for a sweeter pie), cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornstarch well. Pour over the peaches a little at a time and toss gently so the peaches are well covered.
6. Pour the peach filling into the cooled pastry shell. Then roll out the rest of the pastry and cut into strips about ¾ inch wide. Arrange the strips in one direction, then fold every other strip back on itself. Lay the longest remaining strip down at 90 degrees and cover with the folded strips. Repeat until the lattice is complete. Now crimp the strips to the edge of the pie and if necessary glue them down with a little water.
7. Sprinkle some sugar on top for effect and bake in a 425°F (220°C ) oven until the crust is set and beginning to brown, about 20 min. Reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) until the filling is bubbling, about 30 to 40 min. If the edge starts to brown too quickly, cover with little strips of aluminum foil.
8. Cool your pie for at least 3 hr before serving. The longer you leave it the better it will taste and the filling will set nice and thick. Store, lightly covered at room temperature or in the fridge.

Serving suggestion
Enjoy with whipped cream, or ice cream.