Food

The smell and taste of straw­ber­ries are syn­ony­mous with sum­mer.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By Lau­raine Ja­cobs

The smell and taste of straw­ber­ries are syn­ony­mous with sum­mer.

One of the de­lights of spring and early sum­mer, straw­ber­ries are here again, with field-grown va­ri­eties avail­able for the next three months. If you don’t grow your own, look to buy firm, ripe fruit. Luck­ily, most grow­ers pack their wares in trans­par­ent con­tain­ers, and al­though I’m not a fan of plas­tic pack­ag­ing, in this case it’s a bless­ing be­cause the packs can be care­fully turned over to check the con­di­tion of the berries on the bot­tom.

Re­mem­ber, too, that fully sun-ripened ones have the best flavour. Straw­ber­ries are the only fruit I can think of that bear their seeds on the out­side – as the berry ripens, those lit­tle seeds change from light gold to dark wine.

If berries are past their prime, sim­ply cut off the tops, then bring the fruit to a sim­mer with a cou­ple of ta­ble­spoons of wa­ter and a ­spoon­ful or two of sugar. Stew gen­tly for 2-3 min­utes, then re­frig­er­ate. These berries are de­li­cious on ­break­fast muesli or served with vanilla ice-cream.

I love berries in a salad and this re­fresh­ing, sweet com­bi­na­tion is per­fect to serve as the weather warms up.

STRAW­BERRY AND FETA SALAD WITH BAL­SAMIC DRESS­ING

1 soft, leafy red let­tuce 1 small head radic­chio

200g straw­ber­ries

200g creamy feta cheese a hand­ful of mint leaves

½ cup al­monds, roasted DRESS­ING

2 tbsp qual­ity bal­samic vine­gar 4 tbsp avo­cado oil

1 tsp salt freshly ground black pep­per to taste

Wash and dry the let­tuce leaves and radic­chio, then tear into bite-sized pieces. Dry well us­ing a salad spin­ner or clean tea cloth.

Core the straw­ber­ries, then cut in

half length­wise. Crum­ble the feta into lit­tle chunks. Pick the mint leaves off the stalks.

To make the dress­ing, com­bine the in­gre­di­ents in a screw-top jar, then shake well.

Pile the salad leaves and radic­chio onto a flat­tish plate. Scat­ter over the straw­ber­ries, feta and al­monds, then driz­zle over the dress­ing and top with mint leaves.

Serves 4 as an en­trée.

Wine match: rosé.

THESE CHOUX PAS­TRY puffs make a lovely dessert. See page 42 for tips

on suc­cess­ful choux pas­try-mak­ing. STRAW­BERRY, SOUR CREAM AND CUS­TARD PUFFS PAS­TRY

250ml cold wa­ter pinch salt

100g un­salted but­ter, cut into pieces 130g flour, sifted onto a piece of bak­ing

pa­per

4 eggs

TO FIN­ISH

250ml sour cream

250ml cus­tard (Dol­lop brand

rec­om­mended)

1 pun­net straw­ber­ries, sliced ic­ing sugar for dust­ing

Heat the oven to 200°C. Grease a large oven tray with but­ter.

Com­bine the wa­ter, salt and but­ter in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally with a wooden spoon, en­sur­ing that the but­ter melts be­fore the wa­ter boils.

Re­move the pan from the heat as soon as the wa­ter comes to the boil, then quickly stir in the flour. Re­turn the pan to the stove­top and stir vig­or­ously for 15-20 sec­onds un­til the mix­ture forms a ball around the spoon and comes away from the sides. Re­move from the heat.

Tip the mix­ture into a food pro­ces­sor. ­Leav­ing the mo­tor run­ning, add the eggs one at a time un­til the bat­ter is well com­bined, shiny and thick.

Us­ing a dessert­spoon, place evenly spaced pas­try balls on the oven tray (or use a pip­ing bag to pipe even mounds of mix­ture onto the tray).

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20-30 min­utes un­til the puffs are golden brown and well dried out. Cool on a cake rack, pierc­ing the end of each puff so the cen­tre dries. Store in an air­tight tin for up to 2 days. They may also be frozen.

To fill, gen­tly com­bine the sour cream and cus­tard in a bowl. Slice part way through each puff. Fill with a ta­ble­spoon or two of cus­tard mix­ture, then add a gen­er­ous slice or two of fresh straw­berry. Lightly dust the tops with ic­ing sugar by sprin­kling it through a small sieve. Left­over straw­ber­ries can be served on the side.

Makes about 20 puffs.

Wine match: Asti Spumante.

Straw­berry and feta salad

with bal­samic dress­ing.

Straw­berry, sour cream

and cus­tard puffs.

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