Well, nectarines also have a great affinity for that triumvirate, while almonds, aromatic wines and prosecco (think bellini) are also classic pairings. But if you happen to land some perfectly ripe examples, you could do much worse than serve them sliced, dusted with a warming spice such as pepper, nutmeg or clove, and topped with air-dried ham or gooey blue cheese. Fresh, young cheese works well, too – burrata, say, is gorgeous with nectarine.
Nectarines are sold at such varying degrees of ripeness that one purchase rarely resembles another; there are even often variations within the same bag of fruit. To give a few options, today's recipes deal with the fruit at different stages.
Seared scallops with nectarine and burnt butterYou can get away with under-ripe nectarines here, but the riper the fruit, the more intense the puree. The dish looks very simple, but the flavours are rich and interesting. Works with apricots, too. Serves four.
1kg nectarines, halved and stoned
250g unsalted butter, plus extra for frying
8 large diver scallops (or 12 medium)
Sunflower oil, for frying
Stew the nectarines in a splash of water until soft enough to push through a sieve. Pass through a fine sieve into a jug and set aside.
Heat the butter gently in a pan until it's a deep golden brown and stops foaming. Tip through a fine sieve into another pan, then leave to cool ever so slightly. With a hand blender, slowly blitz the still hot butter into the nectarine puree (much as you would oil into eggs for a mayonnaise). Once all the butter has been emulsified into the puree, check for sweetness – add a tiny bit of honey or caster sugar if it's overly sour – then cover with clingfilm and set aside: keep warm (stand the jug in a pan of hand-hot water) or refrigerate if making ahead of time.
Heat a nonstick frying pan on a very high flame. Roll the scallops in oil, then lay a few at a time flat-side down in the pan. Leave for one to two minutes, depending on size, until nicely caramelised, then flip. Cook for just a few seconds more, then add a small nugget of butter and a good squeeze of lemon – this whole post-flip operation should take all of 30-40 seconds, so the scallops don't overcook. Transfer the scallops to a tray or plate, pour the juices over the top, wipe the pan clean and reheat the pan for the next batch. When all the scallops are cooked, season both sides with salt.
To serve, put a generous tablespoon of warm puree on each plate and place the scallops on top.
Nectarine and almond tartAgain, you can get away with under-ripe fruit here, because roasting concentrates the flavour. This can be made with gluten-free flour and/or dairy-free butter, which makes it a winner in my family. Serves six.
75g butter at room temperature
60g sugar (caster is fine, demerera or soft brown even better)
1 level tsp cinnamon or nutmeg
For the pastry
75g butter at room temperature
10g fresh yeast, or 5g dried
1 large egg
1 vanilla pod (or 2 drops extract)
For the pastry, in a large bowl beat the butter into the flour. In a small bowl, beat the yeast and sugar into the egg, then stir into the flour. Add the salt and vanilla, and knead briefly until smooth – it will start off very sticky, then come together all of a sudden. Roll into a ball, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot to double in volume (one to two hours).
Halve and stone the fruit. Line a baking dish with nonstick baking paper (optional, but it will make life easier later on) and dot all over with butter. Sprinkle sugar on top, then lay in the halved fruit flesh side down.
Bake at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 15 minutes. The nectarines should be softened but not mushy, with the skin lifting away from the flesh, and the butter and sugar nicely caramelised. If the fruit was very under-ripe, it may need a few minutes more, otherwise remove and set aside until cool enough to handle, but still warm; turn down the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Peel the fruit, keeping it as intact as possible, then set aside.
Lightly butter or oil a 20cm tart case, tip in the dough and with oiled or floured hands flatten and press out to fill the tin right to the edges. Arrange the nectarines on top and scatter over the spices, caramelised sugar, butter and juices from the oven dish. Leave to prove for 15 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes. Mix the almonds, sugar and water, scatter over the top of the fruit and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Remove, leave to cool for five to 10 minutes, and serve with vanilla ice-cream, creme fraiche or a raspberry and almond chantilly: whip 200g cream with 20g caster sugar and a drop almond extract, then stir in 50g crushed raspberries.
Nectarine chutneyThe traditional way to preserve nectarines and peaches involves dipping them in boiling water to release the skins, spiking with cloves and covering with brandy, à la Monet's Jar Of Peaches. My way may involve more work, but it goes with most cured meat, pâtés and cheese.
2.5kg nectarines, stoned, skinned and chopped into 1cm-square dice
150g white-wine vinegar
125g caster sugar
Grind the spices, and put in a heavy-based pan with the other ingredients. Cook on a low heat, stirring regularly, until thick and jam-like. Pour into sterilised jars, seal and keep in a cool, dark place or in the fridge. Unopened, it keeps for up to two years, and improves with age.