Strawberries are a real celebration of summer. For many people they conjure up memories of picnics, garden parties, afternoon teas and, of course, Wimbledon.
Though you’ll find them in most supermarkets all year round, the flavour is nothing like the flavour of the fresh Scottish strawberries that you’ll find in season now.
I would always recommend you buy fresh and local whenever you can as you truly will taste the difference. We’re lucky in Scotland – strawberries are available in abundance thanks to our climate, soil quality and a number of really great producers who have generations of expertise resulting in fruit that is soft, juicy, plump and incredibly tasty.
The taste of ripe, fresh, juicy, bright strawberries can make it feel like summer, even if it might not seem like it outside.
As a family, we always make a point of going to visit a local strawberry farm every year, to pick some of the season’s first strawberries just as they begin to turn a vibrant red colour.
When it comes to selecting the best strawberries, look out for bright red fruits and don’t always assume size is an indication of quality when it comes to fresh strawberries either. The bigger berries often have higher water content, so small or medium-sized strawberries are usually best when it comes to flavour.
If you get your hands on some good quality, fresh strawberries, you actually need to do very little to them as they can be delicious on their own or served simply with cream or vanilla ice cream. Equally, if you’re looking for something a little more special, there are some great recipes that make the most of these wonderful berries.
Preparing a dish with lots of lovely fresh strawberries does need care though – these are delicate little berries. They can become quite mushy or soggy if you don’t handle them properly.
Don’t be tempted to wash them too much – just a very brief splash of water is all they need. Make sure you don’t wash them before they go in the fridge, or they’ll end up soggy and will be harder to use in a dessert recipe.
If you do find you’re left with some less than perfect strawberries, you can keep them aside and make a delicious sauce, coulis or jam to enjoy throughout summer, which is sure to bring a little sunshine, no matter what the weather.
Pavlova with Strawberries
FOR THE MERINGUE:
- 200g egg whites
- 400g caster sugar
- Whisk the egg whites until they begin to froth then add the sugar.
- Once the mixture is forming soft peaks, place the mix into a piping bag.
- Line a tray with greaseproof paper and pipe the meringue into a circle.
- Pipe in all the circle then pipe round the outside till the sides are high.
- Bake in the oven at 110° for 1 1/2 hours
FOR THE CHANTILLY CREAM:
- 200ml cream
- Icing sugar to taste
- 1 vanilla pod
- Whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until whipped and add more sugar to taste.
- Layer the meringue with the cream and fresh berries and sprinkle with mint leaves.
Summer strawberry Mille-feuille
FOR THE BASE:
- 4 sheets of ready made filo pastry
- 100ml clarified butter
- 100ml icing sugar
FOR THE CARAMEL TUILE:
- 200g sugar
- Crushed nuts or cracked black pepper to taste
FOR THE CROWDIE MOUSSE:
- 500ml milk
- Vanilla of one pod – scrape the vanilla from the pod
- Zest of two lemons
- 100g sugar
- 15g butter
- 30g cornflower
- 4 eggs
- 450g Crowdie cheese
- 200ml cream
- 3 leaves of gelatine
- 400g fresh strawberries – sliced
For the base
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
- Place one sheet of filo pastry on a baking tray, and brush it with clarified butter, then sprinkle with icing sugar.
- Then take your second sheet of filo pastry and repeat, placing one sheet on top of another until all four are brushed with butter, sprinkled with icing sugar and layered atop of one another.
- Place the pastry onto a pastry mat or grease-proof paper. Place another sheet of grease-proof paper on top, and then cover with another baking tray, so that your pastry is sandwiched in between.
- Place into the oven for 6-8 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
- Take it out of the oven and quickly cut your desired shape – if you do this while it’s still warm you will find it easier to cut your desired shape.
For the caramel tuile
- This may seem a challenging part of the recipe but it’s actually very simple. Place 200g sugar into a heavy-bottom pan and heat gently until it forms and becomes golden all over.
- Remove from the heat and pour over a sheet of grease-proof paper on a baking tray and leave until the mixture goes hard.
- Once the mixture is solid, place it in your blender – the mix will begin to form a caramel powder.
- Take a pastry mat and sprinkle the caramel powder thinly across it.
- Cut into the caramel with a cutter – you can choose any shape you wish, and if you prefer you can also add nuts or cracked black pepper to taste.
- Very, very carefully, using a blow torch, blow torch the caramel and as it heats, it will form a shape.
For the Crowdie mousse
- Place the Crowdie cheese, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, sugar, butter, cornflour and eggs into a thermal mix if you have one.
- Heat to 100 degrees and cook until the mix becomes thick. If you don’t have a thermal mix, you can put on a bain-marie or water bath.
- Put all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Place the bowl on top of the bain-marie and cook out slowly until all of the ingredients form a thick mixture.
- Set aside the Crowdie mixture and leave to chill. Whip 195ml of cream – keep 5ml of cream back for later.
- Meanwhile, soak three leaves of gelatine in cold water and place in a pan with the remaining 5ml cream and warm gently until the gelatine melts completely.
- Add in and fold the whipped cream and gelatine into the Crowdie mixture.
- Place a layer of the filo pastry on a plate.
- Cover the pastry with a layer of the Crowdie mousse, then a layer of sliced strawberries and repeat for all four layers.
- Once finished, place the caramel tuile on top and garnish with the Crowdie mousse, fresh strawberries and a fresh strawberry sorbet.
FOR THE PASTRY:
- 250g plain flour
- 50g icing sugar
- 150g unsalted butter, in pieces
- 1 free-range medium egg
- 1 free range egg yolk, lightly beaten
- You will also need 4 x flan tins – 7.5cm diameter and 2.5cm deep
- 500ml whipped cream
- 1 punnet of strawberries
- 250g fresh home-made strawberry jam – if you don’t have time to make jam at home, then you can still use a jar of good quality strawberry jam
- Lemon thyme leaves
- Sprinkle of cracked black pepper
- To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar together in a food processor.
- Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Mix in the egg and pulse gently until the dough just comes together.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead gently, then flatten into a round. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / Gas 4 and roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 3-4mm thickness and use to line 4 individual flan tins of 7.5cm in diameter and 2.5cm deep, then trim the edges. Place in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes before baking.
- Remove from the fridge and add some parchment paper and a layer of baking beans to each tin.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and cook for another 10 minutes or until golden.
- While the pastry is still warm, brush the inside with the beaten egg yolk as this helps to seal the pastry from the tart filling and ensures a crispy base.
To make the strawberry filling
Once the pastry is baked and cooled fill the base of the pasty with whipped cream.
Remove the stalk from the strawberries and cut into quarters. Place on top of the whipped cream. Meanwhile in a pan, heat the strawberry jam until it thins. Pass the jam through a sieve to remove any seeds.
Brush the strawberry jam mixture over the strawberries then garnish with lemon thyme leaves. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper.