Strawberries are the very essence of British summer eating.
But how they vary in flavour, entirely depending on the breed!
For instance, when I see “Elsanto” printed on the label I never buy them. Elsanto is a variety of strawberry which has absolutely no taste apart from that of slightly acidic water. They look the part, promise luscious eating, yet are always a disappointment.
Bred in Scotland, the best strawberries for flavour are Jubilee and Ava. We need to wait for another couple of weeks before finding these on the shelves, yet Jubilee will fruit into October. In-between varieties to look out for, and which do taste good, if not as good as Ava or Jubilee, are Sonata and Malling.
Strawberries are so nutritious, they make into simple puds or the most elaborate, they are useful to snack on, and they combine with a wide range of flavours, notably lemon. In Italy strawberries are served not with cream as in this country, but with citrus juice and sugar, which enhances the flavour immensely. I like to marinade sliced or quartered strawberries in elderflower cordial and lemon juice for a few hours at room temperature before serving. They taste delicious and look glossy with their marinade.
But strawberries are delicious combined with other fruit – bananas, for example, and rhubarb. Strawberries are very good with almonds, and with coffee, but never, for me, with chocolate – the chocolate accentuates the acidity of the strawberry and the sweetness of the chocolate kills any flavour of strawberry.
We need to be sure that the strawberries we buy are grown in Scotland, and we need to make the most of these wonderful berries throughout the months they are available. And to love and enjoy them!
Strawberry and Lemon Parfait
(This is one of my most favourite of ALL strawberry puds!)
- One and a half lbs/750g strawberries, hulled and quartered, if large, halved if smaller
- 4 tablespoons elderflower cordial
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons lemon curd, preferably homemade
- Half a pint/300mls double cream whipped but not stiffly
- 2 large egg whites whisked till stiff with 2 rounded tablespoons icing sieved icing sugar
- Mix the sliced strawberries, elderflower cordial and lemon juice thoroughly.
- Leave in a covered bowl for 2 hours – longer will be better. Divide the marinaded strawberries evenly between 6 glasses.
- Fold together the lemon curd, whipped cream and whisked egg whites and icing sugar. Divide evenly between the 6 glasses. Please don’t garnish with mint sprigs, but a basil leaf on each serving looks and tastes good.
Baked Strawberry and Lemon Frangipane
- 1lb/450g strawberries, left whole but hulled
- 8oz/220g freshly ground almonds
- 3oz/75g butter, melted
- 6oz/175g caster sugar
- Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
- 2 large eggs and 2 yolks
- 2oz/50g flaked almonds
- Butter an ovenproof dish. Put the strawberries into it, and don’t worry about the difference in size. Beat the eggs and yolks together with the caster sugar until very thick and pale.
- Fold in the ground almonds, melted butter and finely grated lemon rind. Pour and spoon this over the strawberries, and bake in a moderate heat, 350’F 180’C gas 4 for 20 minutes.
- Then, scatter the flaked almonds over the surface and bake in the same temperature for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown and feels fairly firm to the touch. Serve warm, with whipped double cream or with creme fraiche.