In season: strawberries
Author: Stewart Turner
Nothing shouts summer in Britain more than the arrival of strawberry season. Although now available all year, imported fruit just doesn’t cut it, mainly because to cope with transportation they are picked before they are properly ripe. Strawberries don’t ripen after being picked, which means that their flavour and texture are impaired. My advice is to get your fill during the British season to enjoy this cracking fruit at its fragrant, juicy and flavourful best.
This year we are in for a real treat: the unusually cold spring means the fruit took longer to ripen, making the strawberries much bigger, sweeter and juicier than usual, and the recent hot spells have led to a bumper crop. With that in mind, I’ve put together a couple of recipes that combine strawberries and my favourite summer herb, basil. They pair well and, with the addition of balsamic and black pepper, can make a cracking savoury dish. They also work surprisingly well in my version of strawberries and cream.
Heritage tomatoes are sweeter and lack a genetic mutation that gives tomatoes a uniform red colour, at the cost of the fruit’s taste – thus they come in many colours and shapes.
- Selection of heritage tomatoes – ideally different colours
- 12 plump strawberries
- 100g ricotta
- ½ red chilli
- 2 plum tomatoes – peeled, deseeded and diced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Basil leaves – torn
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive crumb (dry pitted olives in the oven at 80°C for about 12 hours, then chop finely)
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the ricotta in a baking dish and season well. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until nice and golden. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the diced chilli and set aside to cool.
Slice the tomatoes and half of the strawberries into various shapes, wedges or slices. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
Dice the remaining strawberries and mix with the diced plum tomatoes, torn basil leaves, a drizzle of balsamic and a good glug of olive oil. Season to taste.
Arrange the sliced tomatoes and strawberries on plates and crumble the baked ricotta over the top/ Drizzle the diced mix over the top and finish with the olive crumb.
- 200ml of milk
- 600ml of double cream
- 2 vanilla pods
- 85g of caster sugar
- 3 ½ gelatine leaves
- 400g strawberries
- 8 basil leaves – finely sliced
- 1tsp elderflower cordial
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh elderflowers and fritters – optional (see below)
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. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for five minutes, then squeeze out the soaked gelatine and add to the mixture.
Pass the mix into a clean bowl, discarding the used vanilla pods. Chill over ice until nearly set, then pour into a dish. Set in the fridge for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.
Hull and quarter the strawberries. Place in a bowl and dress with the balsamic and cordial. Mix in the basil and some freshly ground black pepper. Leave to macerate for about 15 minutes.
When ready to serve, beat back the set cream and spoon a nice quenelle onto serving plates. Place the dressed strawberries alongside, then finish with some basil cress, elderflower leaves and elderflower fritters.
- 100g plain flour
- 1 egg white – whipped to soft peaks
- 30ml vegetable oil
- 175ml sparkling mineral water
- 15g caster sugar
- 16 elderflowers – washed
- Vegetable oil – for deep frying
- Icing sugar – for dusting
Sift the flour and whisk in the oil and water. Beat to a thick paste, then stir in a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes. Just before frying, fold in the whipped egg white.
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or large heavy-based pan. Dip the elderflowers in the batter, then drop in the hot oil, a few at a time, and fry until golden. Dust the elderflower fritters with icing sugar and serve.