The stone fruit season might be long gone, but the last of these exotic (for Chennai at least!) nectarines still linger in the markets, so I’ve been making the most of them while I can. Although Chennai is not the first place you’d think of for stone fruits, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find them—even the elusive apricot, mistaken for ‘peeches’—at my local market. Grateful though as I am, that they are even available here, the reality is that most of them are unyielding and inconceivably hard to sink your teeth into.
Each year I buy peaches (and nectarines when they have any) and place them on the counter to ripen. And then I wait. For the first day or two absolutely nothing happens. On the third day, they normally show some sign of softening, only, it’s because they’ve started shriveling up and possibly rotting within. Happens every year but I’m not giving up just yet. This man versus food series will continue on.
Adding sugar or honey offers some help to slightly under-ripe fruit, but for the especially stubborn ones, cooking is the only salvageable option: make a quick compote and serve alongside ice cream or bake them in the oven with a splosh of rum and a split vanilla bean. Jams are another route to go down and really take the fruit a whole lot further. But if you’re in the mood for something quick, something low-effort, this is it.
Start with the crumb. Whilst that’s baking, get on with grilling the fruit. I like to use a griddle pan in place of a regular one mainly for the zebra-striped char marks you get on the nectarines. Not just for the looks, but you get a slight bitterness from the caramelized bits that I love. Both components take relatively the same time to cook too which is an added bonus here.
Add ground almonds, oats, sugar, and butter to a bowl. Break up the butter into the dry mixture using the tips of your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Toss in the cinnamon powder, pumpkin seeds if using and salt into the almond mix.
Spread the crumb out evenly on a lined baking tray and bake in a preheated 180 C/360 F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove and set aside.
Halve the nectarines and gently remove the stones. Heat a griddle pan or a regular pan and toss in the butter and maple syrup. Place the nectarines cut side down on the pan and turn the heat down. Let them cook for 8-10 minutes or until they soften. If your nectarines were very ripe, keep an eye out so they don't go mushy.
To serve: place a nectarine half face up in a bowl, and top with ice cream and a handful of crumbs.