The plump red berries that seem to be everyones favourite fruit.
Welcome to ingredient, where once a month I take a deep dive into some of my favourite seasonal and store cupboard ingredients. This month I’m focusing on strawberries, the plump, fragrant red berries that arrive just in time to usher us into summer.
For paid subscribers click here for my recipes for my Greek-style Strawberry and Beetroot Salad, my Strawberry & Rhubarb Tarts, and my Cheats Strawberry Coconut Daiquiri.
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Also, big love to Leah over at The Jewish Table, who interviewed me in her newsletter last month about my relationship with Jewish food, gefilte fish balls, and my next level appreciation for herring rollmops. Her piece also includes a delicious looking recipe for Crispy, Lemony Sheet Pan Salmon, so do go and check it out!
When they’re in season, I’ve always enjoyed strawberries in abundance.
Strawberries are something we’ve always grown at home (not to mention the much queried on Instagram vertical hydroponics system my father built a few years ago that covers an entire greenhouse wall), and when I lived in Los Angeles, my fridge was always overflowing with little green punnets of them from the farmers market. Thursday afternoons were always for buying strawberries and fat, larger than life lemons at the Broxton Avenue Farmers Market.
I grow them in my own garden too, both in pots and to fill out my bog borders (I live on clay near a filled in pond) which they don’t seem to mind, and every time I pass my favourite farm shop I come back with a couple of punnets whenever they’re in season, and sometimes massive, a little past their best jamming trays to turn into Strawberry and Passion Fruit Jam (though, I’m still eating the sorbet from last year when I did this not realising there was a national jam sugar and pectin shortage...)
I talked last month about the beautiful gariguette strawberries I adore in France that my parents also grow here in Kent, but which never seem to have the same fragrance. So today we’re all about English strawberries, Kentish strawberries, and not just because I’m writing this off the back of a strawberries-and-cream fuelled Jubilee weekend.
Strawberries, along with the seasons asparagus are the produce whose arrival tells me that summer is here.
But, surprisingly, even though I always have strawberries when strawberries are in season, I don’t actually have many recipes for them. Type ‘strawberries’ in to the search box on my blog and you’ll find my three main uses for them: to make my Mum’s brilliant Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream, my Fresh Strawberry Sorbet, and to colour and flavour buttercream icing for seasonal cakes (usually paired, but not always, with chopped pistachios.)
Though, this year I can’t seem to get enough of strawberries for cooking, not just for eating. New from me, and linked to above I’ve got a delicious, low alcohol, 3-ingredient Strawberry Spritz recipe I created for a Love Fresh Berries Instagram campaign, and my column this month for local food hall Macknade featured some rather fantastic (if I may say so myself) Rosé Wine and Strawberry Jellies made with local fruit and a rather excellent Côtes du Rhône rosé wine (again, whilst I’m disclosing things in the brackets I’m typing this on the train home after an evening being wined and dined by the Côtes du Rhône region. So perhaps I’m biased, but the wine is still rather affordable, and very good…)
Growing up, friends visiting the house for meals were always surprised by the abundance of fresh cut berries always kept prepared for dessert with ice cream, or for breakfast with yogurt in the fridge from which they could enjoy as much as they wanted. Fruit is always an acceptable dessert in our family, especially when it is in season, regardless of the cost (and berries are costly) even before we got serious about growing our own.
To start things off on the recipe front, I’ve put a seasonal twist on one of my go-to recipes when entertaining during the summer months, my happily make-ahead friendly Greek Beetroot Salad. Here it has been given a tart twist by swapping out my usual date molasses for pomegranate, perfect for pairing with juicy strawberries that so perfectly contrast with beetroots earthiness, a swirl of Greek yogurt, and plenty of fresh mint. You’d not think that a recipe that includes both strawberries and garlic would be a keeper, but this simple salad is as delicious as it is beautiful.
Next, I’m cross with Ocado. You know those double packs of frozen puff pastry you get where you can just slip them out of the packet to defrost one at a time? I only wanted to make a chicken pie, but they’d allowed the pack to semi-defrost during transit, gluing the two blocks together with frost so I not only had no choice but to defrost both blocks at once, but I also had no choice but to turn the spare block into a couple of Strawberry and Rhubarb Tarts with more local berries, and a few stalks of English rhubarb from my parents garden.
The results are deliciously free form, perfect served with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, and are simple enough to suit bakers like me. Seriously, this week saw me at a garden party with more former Great British Bake Off contestants than there are days in the week and even though I work in food and do develop sweet recipes on occasion most of the baking chat about different types of meringue and what mixing bowls to use to make what went right over my head. (Whilst I have your attention you must go and buy Chetna Makan’s brilliant new sweet and savoury baking book Chetna’s Easy Baking which is out today - literally everything she baked from the book for the party was sublime, but I can particularly recommend the many layered Almond and Caramel Torte with Chocolate Buttercream on pg 74).
But I digress. For my third and final recipe, we’re turning to the drinks cupboard where, moving on from my simple, low proof strawberry spritz I went back to a project I’ve had on the back burner for a while because I’m lazy that way: trying to figure out if it is possible to create a good frozen cocktail in my blender without the need to remember to pre-freeze any of the ingredients.
Reader? It turns out that, thus far, the answer is no. However, I was still presented with a beautifully balanced, fruity cocktail that made me feel like I'm on holiday, so I decided to share it with you anyway as it’s simple enough for you to bash together after work today.
As for hacking the frozen thing? I’ll keep trying. It’s a hard job, testing all of those cocktails, but someone has to do it!