strawberry hat

“…we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast”

From Strawberries by Edwin Morgan

 

Strawberries herald the approach of summer, and they are synonymous with the first events of the summer sporting season, first in the shape of hats at Ascot, and then in the exorbitant quantities of real ones at Wimbledon where 27,000 kilos of them are devoured annually together with 7,000 litres of cream.

Any other ways of enjoying them? Below you’ll find ten suggestions, and general advice about storage and so forth.

 

How to look after strawberries
  • try to avoid keeping them in the fridge – it dulls the flavour
  • if you really must keep them in the fridge make sure you take them out at least half an hour before you plan to eat them – they will taste better
  • don’t wash them until just before you plan to eat them
  • buy local strawberries grown outside – in the UK the season is June to early autumn

 

Did you know?
  • Because the seeds are on the the outside technically the strawberry is NOT a fruit.
  • Gariguette is a much prized, very sweet, French strawberry
  • Royal Sovereign is a wonderful heart-shaped strawberry, cultivated by Thomas Laxton, the greatest British strawberry breeder of the nineteenth century.
  • A good alpine strawberry is the mignonette

 

Ten ideas:

 

1. Make a salad. Add a handful each of rocket and lambs’ lettuce to a wooden bowl, top with a sliced avocado (yes, a bit eighties this I know), about ten sliced strawberries, and some chopped pecans. Mix a dressing of five tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of raspberry vinegar, a teaspoon of honey, salt and pepper. Toss and serve. Or go for a red salad – slightly less weight of strawberries to baby plum tomatoes, mixed with basil leaves and a dressing of oil only, garlic crushed with smoked salt, and freshly ground pepper.

2. Grill your strawberries with brown sugar and thick balsamic vinegar (reduce the vinegar for about half an hour with a little honey and a bay leaf). Especially good with apple balsamic vinegar. Moving on from the eighties, this treatment is a bit nineties, but none the worse for that.

3. Make a strawberry daiquiri. In a cocktail shaker mash up four fresh strawberries, two teaspoons of caster sugar, two tablespoons of white rum, and one and a half tablespoons of lime juice. Shake. Strain. Serve, garnished with a sprig of mint.

4. Eton Mess. Very traditional, very British… also very easy. Originally invented in the nineteenth century to be eaten at the annual Eton v Harrow school cricket match. Whip up some cream (500 ml for four people) with a couple of teaspoons of vanilla sugar. Slice about 500g of strawberries and soak them in a couple of teaspoons of either pomegranate juice (a Nigella-inspired idea), or Chambord black raspberry liqueur. Mix the cream and strawberries together with smashed meringue. The liqueur is available from both Tesco and Waitrose, for about £7. Never fear, it will not languish in the cupboard – it’s a great sauce for vanilla ice cream – or add to champagne, see five, below.

5. Use your black raspberry liqueur (see paragraph above) instead of crème de cassis to make a raspberry version of kir. Use one part liqueur to five parts white wine, or for a Kir Royale, substitute champagne for the white wine. Drop in a strawberry for extra flavour…and a bit of fun.

6. Another traditional team of flavours – this one from Lancashire. Basic approach – strawberry jam with stilton on buttered toast. Lavish approach – use Humber’s strawberry jam (Vickie Humber won gold at the world jampionships last year with this entry) and Stilchelton cheese. For more about Humber’s jam go to their website. And for more about Stilchelton, which is a creamy reconstruction of the great Stiltons of years gone by

7. Make a salad dressing with strawberries. mix ten tablespoons of olive oil, to two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, mush in five ripe strawberries, salt and lots of pepper. Use it on a bag of mixed salad leaves, a pack of feta (crumbled) and a small packet of hazlenuts or walnuts, toasted and chopped.

8. Serve sprinkled with lime zest, a little caster sugar, a few baby basil leaves and some pepper. Lavish version, use Tellicherry black pepper from Peppermongers. An alternative citrus idea is to sprinkle with caster sugar and spoon over a little orange juice (blood orange juice if possible), leaving to marinate overnight.

9. We all know about the chocolate-dipped strawberries you make to share with your lover in the bath. But if you have ever tried to make them you will know they are fiddly and time-consuming and you will soon be far from ‘in the mood’. There is a secret: melt the chocolate in ice cube trays in the microwave (one ounce/25g for each ‘cube’ – heart shaped moulds are particularly apposite –Amazon stocks them). Be very careful – chocolate burns easily, and once ruined is irretrievable, so put the tray in on low for ten seconds at a time until melted. Then put your strawberries in stalk end uppermost, one in each ice cube space. Lavish approach – use Montezuma’s Sea Dog – 70% Peruvian chocolate with lime and salt – different but wonderful.

10. Go against the flow, sink into the decadence of strawberries in December as described by writer Anaïs Nin:
“When a little money comes in, [she] buys delicacies, strawberries in the winter, caviar and bath salts”. ….
Or be original and creative, what would an artist do with a strawberry… or a burlesque dancer?

… and finally one thing not to do… don’t try to get ahead of yourself and wash and hull strawberries to be served, in the raw, ahead of time. An hour before they are due to be eaten is fine, but much longer and they will begin to deteriorate. Once picked strawberries do not continue to ripen so keep them whole in the fridge (two or three days maximum) until you need to use them.

Which strawberries are the best? Mara des Bois are sweet and fragrant…. alpine strawberries are simply wonderful.

 

alpine strawberries

what to do with alpine strawberries

 

I have no wish to see the film, Match Point, but the soundtrack is to die for – listen to it as you enjoy your strawberries.

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