Essential ingredients: strawberries



In our series identifying key seasonal ingredients, our Head Chef Stewart Turner sings the praises of the humble strawberry, while Demetri Walters MW suggests potential vinous partners.

On the table: Strawberries and cream has to be the national summer dish, and this month’s recipe is really just an extension of that. I love panna cotta: it’s such a simple dessert and so utterly delicious. At No.3 we make it in moulds and turn them out, but you could just as easily make them in glasses or ramekins. My top tip is to chill the mix over ice until just setting, then place in the moulds; this will suspend the vanilla through the mix, avoiding it all falling to the bottom.

I always like to serve something with panna cotta to give a different texture to the dish. I have done doughnuts here but you could do shortbread, or even a baked crumble topping. Doughnuts are something we rarely make at home, but can be a real pleasure, and anyone who has ever been to the seaside knows there is nothing quite like a warm, freshly-cooked doughnut.

In the glass: With fruit-based desserts I advocate wines at the lighter and fresher end of the spectrum, rather than those richer and more oxidative sweeties that suit many puddings. Cloying sweetness is the enemy of fruity puddings.

We often overlook Demi-Sec Champagne, but the combination of moderate sweetness and fizzy precision works well on the palate with fresh fruit desserts. If the need requires something more liquorous, then Moscato d’Asti has the answer.

I work on the principal that the sweeter the fruit, the sweeter the wine needs to be; but the wine must have corresponding acidity and freshness. For instance, apple crumble and Sauternes is a match made in heaven. Something stickier demands the bracing acidity of a Tokaji.

The combination of creamy panna cotta, fragrant strawberries, and sugary doughnuts requires a wine with fruitiness, freshness, but not necessarily pronounced sweetness. The frothy intensity and Muscat pungency of the unusually-named Zazazu is the perfectly-balanced foil to this dish.

Vanilla panna cotta with strawberries and doughnuts
  • 200ml milk
  • 600ml double cream
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 85g of caster sugar
  • 3 ½ gelatine leaves
  • 2 punnets strawberries
  • 50ml strawberry coulis

Start by soaking the gelatine in cold water. Split the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds. Add the pods and seeds to a saucepan with the milk, cream and sugar, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for five minutes before adding the squeezed out, soaked gelatine.

Pass the mixture into a clean bowl, discarding the used vanilla pods. Chill over ice until nearly set and then pour into suitable moulds, glasses or a serving dish. Set in the fridge for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.

Top and slice the strawberries, mix with the coulis and set aside. Once ready to serve, turn out the panna cottas and place the strawberries alongside them. Finish with the warm doughnuts.


  • 7g dried yeast
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 75ml milk – warmed
  • 45ml water
  • 250g strong flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 20g soft butter
  • 1 egg – beaten
  • Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

Activate the yeast with two tablespoons of the warm milk. Place in a warm place for about 10 minutes, or until it starts to bubble. Mix the flour, salt and remaining sugar in a bowl. Add the softened butter and rub together for a minute. Combine the liquids and add to the flour.

Mix to form a dough and then knead for about five minutes. Cover the bowl and leave to stand for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock the dough back. On a floured work surface roll the dough out to about two-centimetre thickness and then cut out rings about four centimetres in diameter. Make a hole in the centre of each one with a smaller cutter. Place both on a tray, cover and put in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until they have doubled in size.

Heat the oil to 180˚C. Gently fry the doughnuts for a couple of minutes, turning occasionally until they are a nice golden brown. Pass though some caster sugar and serve.