A bowl of cherries is, well, a bowl of cherries, but there’s more to be done with this fetching fruit. Matt Preston has a wealth of ways to make the most of their all-too-short season.
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WHEN it comes to fruit, what gets you excited? Custard apple season? Plums in the supermarket at a killer price? The first quinces? Yeah, probably not.
But mention Aussie cherries are back in season and watch the excitement grow. What is it about the taut-skinned black or crimson danglers that makes us so thrilled to see them back in the shops at an affordable price?
The answer comes when you bite into your first cherry of the season – juicy, sweet and occasionally delectably sour, the flesh delivers on its promise. The juice is as welcome running down your chin as it is adding mystery and sophistication to a classic Bellini cocktail instead of the usual peach.
While a bowl of fat cherries served on ice was one of my most memorable restaurant desserts of last year – so simple, so perfectly delicious – their versatility provides much joy in many guises, whether it’s a cherry clafoutis, Black Forest cake or (even more retro) a cherries jubilee on vanilla ice-cream. In fact, pair cherries with anything vanilla, almond or coconut and you have a hit on your hands.
In the savoury realm, try cherries, poached, pickled or fresh, as a garnish for a salad with goat’s cheese or with roast duck and hazelnuts. Pickled cherries or a cherry and port compote work well with cheese or Christmas ham, and with smoked trout according to Hugh Fearnley-whittingstall. Here are 10 more wonderful ideas for cherries.
1. Make cherry jam to use with vanilla or chocolate gelato in ice-cream sandwiches, or in our cherry-ripple ice-cream (find it at delicious.com.au).
Pair cherries with almonds in a classic American pie, frangipane tart or crumble. Better yet, feature sour cherries at the heart of a cherry galette – just about the easiest free-form tart you could make and even quicker when made with good shop-bought pastry. If you can’t find sour cherries try Silvia Colloca’s trick of adding vincotto or a little balsamic vinegar when cooking the cherries.
Even simpler, buy a pre-made, pre-cooked tart case, fill it with whipped cream and Greek yoghurt slightly sweetened with icing sugar and then cover it all with loads of halved and pitted fresh cherries. Make a syrup with any juice you catch during the pitting process and a few extra cherries cooked down with Croatian cherry wine and a little sugar. No Croatian cherry wine? No problem. Aussie port-style wine with a strip of lemon zest will do almost as well. Mash the cooked cherries and pass all the contents of the pan through a sieve. If you don’t like alcohol in your cooking try gently brewed (ie not stewed) rooibos tea instead. Drizzle this syrup over the tart and spritz it with rosewater before serving.
If you want to step up this idea, try my cherry, chocolate and vanilla tartlets (pictured above), which are filled with a simple crème fraîche ice-cream to help highlight the natural sweetness of the cherries. Use rosewater here, too.
5. Try Silvia Colloca’s schiacciata with vincotto cherries – an easy sweet bread studded with cherries and fragrant with vincotto and thyme.
6. The world is beset by collabs and why should cherries miss out on this achingly fashionable cross-pollination? I’m rather proud of my individual Black Forest pavlovas, for instance. These chocolate meringues loaded with fresh and poached cherries, whipped crème fraîche and dark chocolate ‘take the pavlova on a holiday to Baden-württemberg with all the flavours of the classic gâteau but in a lighter Aussie idiom’ or so said the quarterly magazine of the Narrabeen Pavlova Appreciation Society.
7. Make a cherry cheesecake. Load your favourite cheesecake recipe (I hope it’s mine) with halved cherries set in port jelly after baking. Also hide a layer of that cherry jam on the centre of the biscuit base before cooking.
Make a cherry granita with sparkling wine for the perfect light finish to a summer meal.
9. A deconstructed traditional trifle can yield great results like Warren Mendes’ glasses of panettone, chocolate and cherry trifle. Or take on the challenge of making James Viles’ burnt cherry trifle that will see you whipping up a cherry sorbet, cherry jelly, chocolate crumbs and burning cherries for a showstopping end to a meal. Both recipes are available on the website, and the use of air quotes is greatly encouraged when presenting either of these ‘trifles’ to the table.
Far less impressive is my cheat’s cherry ice- cream. This can be made with frozen cherries or with fresh cherries that you have pitted and frozen yourself. It’s as simple as blitzing lightly crushed frozen-hard cherries with eggwhites and a little sugar. Elevate this by pairing it with my cheat’s coconut ice- cream (made without an ice- cream machine) and a crackable dark- chocolate hard sauce to make things ‘cherry right’. You’ll find a video of how to make this on the