We all remember Nellie Melba from Downton Season 4.
Peach Melba was created by chef Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935), also connected to Downton (Alfred apprenticed at his cooking school). She dined in the best restaurants in Europe so of course was acquainted with Escoffier, who was with the Savoy at the time. She sent him a pair of tickets to come see her in the Wagner opera Lohengrin. In the opera, there was an impressive swan boat.
The next night after dinner at the Savoy, Escoffier served Melba a dessert of poached peaches served on ice cream in a dish set on a swan carved out of ice. At the time, he called it “Pecheau Cygne” (Peach Swan.) A few years later, when Escoffier and César Ritz opened the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, he added a sauce of puréed raspberries to the dish, and renamed it to Pêche Melba.
Escoffier’s recipe for Pêche Melba (Melba Peaches) in The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery, was quite simple: “Poach the peaches in vanilla-flavored syrup. Put them in a timbale upon a layer of vanilla ice-cream, and coat them with a raspberry puree.”