Cooks in a rush reach for the bottle

Marinating fruit in wine just comes naturally to families of vignerons. It only take a few minutes preparation, and looks and tastes great.

Wine harvest cooks don’t have much time, so depending on what fruit they have in their garden, peaches, pears and figs marinated and cooked in red wine are usually in their repertoire for pickers, particularly in the Bordeaux area. In the Loire, it is sweet white wine that perks up things up at the end of the meal.

Here are a few variations on the theme:

Peaches & prunes simmered in red wine

FOR 6-8 PEOPLE

2 kg (4 lb) small peaches (1-2 per person depending on size)

twice as many prunes as peaches

1 bottle red wine

250 g (8 oz) caster sugar

a stick of cinnamon

12 peppercorns

12 coriander seeds

Pour boiling water over the peaches, leave for 5 minutes, then plunge them into cold water and peel them. (It is not absolutely necessary to do this - some people leave the skins on.) Cut them in half and remove the stones. You should now have an equal quantity of peach halves and prunes. Put the wine, sugar and spices into an enamelled pan and bring to the boil. Add the peaches and prunes and simmer until the fruit are cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes - longer if they were under-ripe. Put aside to cool, then chill in the fridge overnight. If time, place a prune in each peach half before arranging in a bowl. Sieve the wine to remove the spices and pour over the fruit.

PEACHES (or nectarines) IN RED WINE

FOR 6 PEOPLE

approximately 1 kg (2 lb) ripe peaches

(at least one peach per person)

1 bottle red wine

1 tablespoon kirsch, optional

200 g (7 oz) caster sugar

Pour boiling water over the peaches, leave for 5 minutes, then plunge them into cold water and peel them. Cut them in half and take out the stones. Slice evenly. Marinade the peaches overnight in the wine, kirsch and sugar. That is all. The kirsch is a refinement; it can be made without it or you could experiment with other fruit brandies.

With fruit which is not completely ripe, best to cook them in the marinade for a few minutes, before cooling and serving.

A refinement if time: first removing the fruit, boil the marinade to reduce by about a third. In this case I would add the Kirsch at the end. Serve cold.

I have done this many times this summer using nectarines – even faster as there is no need to peel – and the colours look terrific.

Very Fast Salad of Grapes, Apples & Sweet white wine

This Salade Vigneronne, from the Loire, could hardly be simpler! The grapes used are sweet table grapes, although traditionally it would be Chasselas which used to be widely planted round Pouilly-sur-Loire, making white wine for everyday consumption. Now they have largely been replaced by Sauvignon Blanc and the Chasselas is grown as a table grape further south.

FOR 4 PEOPLE

150 g (5 oz) white table grapes

150 g (5 oz) black table grapes

2 crisp eating apples

50 g (2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar

250 ml (8 fl oz) sweet white wine

such as Coteaux du Layon, (or other desert wine which you have to hand)

Wash the grapes and pat them dry, take them off the stalk. If there are pips and you have time, take them out.

Peel, if you wish, and core the apples. Slice them finely.

Put the grapes and apples in a shallow bowl, sprinkle with sugar and shake the bowl to mix the fruit and sugar together. Pour over the wine and keep in the fridge till ready to serve with the rest of the bottle.