EAT THIS: STRAWBERRIES

Although wild strawberries were mentioned in Roman times it wasn’t until the 15th century that the cultivation of strawberries began. Strawberries don’t have a real country of origin, they are quite universal.
Strawberries 2

There is nothing more evocative of an English summer however than strawberries and cream. English strawberries make their first big appearance of the year in early June in conjunction with the Wimbledon tennis tournament and continue to crop through August.

Today strawberries can be found year-round in most countries; something which offends the sensibilities of those ’in the know’, those who believe we ought to stay faithful to the season and the summer weather in which the English strawberry grows.

Among the numerous varieties, some of the most flavourful are Elsanta, Driscoll Jubilee or Sonata. One exception worth bending the rules for is a variety from France, the Garriguette, which is delicately elongated, meltingly sweet and juicy. It also crops in early May and the fact that it’s the first of the year seems to make it taste even sweeter.

Whichever variety you choose, try not to buy strawberries more than 48 hours in advance as they can turn rotten without warning, they are fragile and dislike stormy weather. Choose fresh, ripe, healthy strawberries and eat them as soon as possible after purchase. Quality is not all about size either. Large, good looking fruit can often turn out to be tasteless. Good strawberries are bright red, the stem green and rigid and the skin should be neither split nor bruised. The tip should also be coloured, which is an indication of ripeness. A dull colour suggests that it has been kept too long, if green the strawberry will never ripen.

Wash by rinsing a few at a time under cold running water; don’t hull them before washing as they will absorb water and lose their flavour. After washing, hull them and prepare immediately.

Served plain with a dusting of caster sugar, under a blanket of cream or a cloud of whipped cream – there are endless ways to savour strawberries. Sometimes they may be marinated in orange juice or maybe a hint of balsamic vinegar, black pepper, kirsch, Champagne or Beaujolais.

Strawberries are good in salads, as well as in tarts, mousses, soufflés and ice creams. Liquidise them with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon and they make a wonderful sauce. Take advantage of the last minute before the markets close to find bargains to use in jams or sorbets.

An easy sorbet can be made very quickly by liquidising 1kg of ripe, hulled strawberries, 200g of sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Strain the resulting puree through a fine sieve and churn in an ice cream machine.

Strawberry Sundae

Serves 4

8 balls Strawberry ice cream (below)
200g Ripe strawberries (washed & hulled)
8tbls Strawberry coulis (see soft meringue recipe)
200ml Sweetened, whipped cream
4tbls Toasted almonds

Method

Assemble in large balloon glasses in any order you like, just ensure that you finish with the whipped cream and toasted nuts. (A few small meringues are nice too if you have any at hand.)

Strawberry Ice Cream
(Makes 2ltrs, much more than you need, but of course it keeps well)

500g Strawberries
300ml Milk
90ml Double cream
155g Liquid glucose
2 Egg yolks
70g Caster sugar
125g Strawberry jam

Method

1. Wash and hull the strawberries then liquidise until smooth.

2. Bring the milk, double cream and glucose to a simmer.

3. Whisk the egg yolks and caster
sugar together in a large bowl until white and thick.

4. Pour the boiling milk/cream mixture onto the egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk well

5. Return the mixture to the pan and place over a low heat.

6. Cook very very gently, stirring all the while until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (82°c on an instant read thermometer).

7. Immediately pour the thickened mixture into a large bowl, sitting on ice.

8. Add the jam and stir until smooth. Leave to cool completely then stir in the strawberry puree.

9. Strain through a fine sieve then transfer to the fridge and chill overnight.

10. Next day, churn in an ice cream machine.

English Strawberry Jelly, Strawberry Granita and Vanilla Cream

Serves 4

500g Ripe English strawberries, washed and hulled
100g Caster sugar
2tbls Lemon juice
2 leaves Gelatine

Method

1. Place the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice into a heat proof bowl, cover with cling film and sit over a pan of simmering water for 45 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool without removing the cling film.

3. When cooled, carefully lift out 20 of the poached strawberries with a slotted spoon and retain for garnish.

4. Pour the remaining contents into a sieve lined with a double thickness of clean muslin over another bowl. Allow to strain slowly without disturbing.

5. Measure 360mls of the strained, clear juice and set aside for the jelly.

6. Pour the remainder into a shallow stainless steel tray and place in the deep freeze. Stir with a fork every 30 minutes to break up the ice crystals.

7. Once frozen into large crystals, cover with cling film and keep frozen until needed.

8. Soak the leaf gelatine in cold water till softened and then squeeze dry.

9. Warm the softened gelatine in a small saucepan with 2tbls of the juice, stirring regularly to dissolve. Then add this to the remainder of the measured 360ml juice.

10. Strain through a fine sieve before dividing the jelly between 4 individual glass dishes and refrigerate to set.

Vanilla Cream

1 Vanilla pod, split and seeds removed
225ml Double cream
55ml Full fat milk
1 leaf Gelatine, soaked in cold water to soften then squeezed dry
2tsp White rum
55g Caster sugar

Method

1. Bring cream, milk, vanilla pod and its seeds to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, gelatine and white rum.

3. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and allow to cool before spooning over the strawberry jellies (ensure the cream is very cool otherwise it could melt the jelly).

4. Return to the fridge for 30 minutes in order to set the vanilla cream.

Assembly

1. Place 5-6 poached strawberries on top of each jelly, followed with a couple of tablespoons of granita.

2. Serve immediately.

Soft Meringue Roll with Rose Petal Cream and Strawberries

Serves 6

180g Egg whites
360g Sugar
20g Cornflour
10ml White wine vinegar
500ml Double cream
200g Rose petal jelly, softened
150g Icing sugar
1tbls Rosewater

MeringueMethod

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Whisk egg whites to a soft peak then gradually shower in the sugar whilst continuing to whisk to a stiff meringue.

3. Whisk in the cornflour and the vinegar.

4. Spread onto a 250mm x 150mm Swiss roll tin, lined with non-stick baking parchment and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

5. Remove and allow to cool before turning out onto another sheet of baking parchment.

6. For the rosewater cream; whisk the double cream until it begins to thicken then sift in the icing sugar. Then gently fold in the rose petal jelly and flavour with rosewater to taste.

7. Spread a generous layer of cream over the meringue and roll carefully with the help of the silicone paper – chill well.

Strawberry and Rosewater Coulis

100g Strawberries, washed and hulled
1tsp Icing sugar
1/2tsp Rosewater

Method

Liquidise the strawberries and icing sugar, then pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. Flavour to taste with rosewater.

Assembly

250g Strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered

1/2tsp Chopped pistachio nuts (optional)

Icing sugar to dust

4 Sprigs mint
Cut the meringue roll into thick slices and serve topped with quartered strawberries and scattered pistachios with a little strawberry coulis

Related Stories