Ev­ery week, only in LIFE

Imag­ine sit­ting in the sun­shine, munch­ing on juicy, sweet, suc­cu­lent straw­ber­ries, says Rachel Allen. What could be more de­li­cious?

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Gavin

Ial­ways re­mem­ber the ex­cite­ment of head­ing down to the beach at Brit­tas Bay in Wick­low with my fam­ily on a sunny sum­mer’s day, and get­ting to stop at one of the road­side stalls sell­ing straw­ber­ries. We had to wait un­til we got to Brit­tas (which seemed like an eter­nity) be­fore we could de­vour the plump, juicy berries, which were al­ways still a tiny bit warm from sit­ting in the sun. Sweet, suc­cu­lent and in­tensely flavour­some, it’s one of the loveli­est abid­ing food mem­o­ries I have of my youth.

The most se­duc­tive scar­let red fruit of all (saucily im­mor­talised by Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in the movie 9ƒ Weeks), straw­ber­ries also hap­pen to be darn good for us. Jam-packed full of vi­ta­min C and a whole host of other good­ies such as man­ganese, di­etary fi­bre and potas­sium. And straw­ber­ries, while they are amaz­ing toute seule, have the abil­ity to marry well with so many other flavours, too.

I love adding torn basil leaves to halved straw­ber­ries and al­low­ing them to mac­er­ate for about 20 min­utes be­fore serv­ing with meringues and cream. Straw­ber­ries also work re­ally well with a lit­tle dash of bal­samic vine­gar and su­gar, or a twist or two of black pep­per. Of course, the sweet, fat berries also love other sum­mer fare, such as rhubarb, rasp­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries.

I think my favourite straw­berry match is with peaches or nec­tarines. The com­bi­na­tion is just dreamy, and this crum­ble, right, is a great ex­am­ple of a match made in heaven. It can be made ear­lier in the day and just popped into the oven from the fridge when you’re ready for it.

The de­li­cious straw­berry pop­si­cles that you see in the photo, above right, are as pop­u­lar with adults as they are with lit­tle ones. Serve as a treat on a hot day and you’ll have them eat­ing out of your hand!

My friend and cousin-in-law Ivan Whe­lan gave me this recipe for straw­ber­ries in red Bur­gundy syrup, above right; it’s a de­li­ciously grown-up way to end a meal.

Mean­while, the al­mond tart with straw­ber­ries, right, is one that we make at the cook­ery school at this time of year. It takes its in­spi­ra­tion from an old River Cafe recipe that never fails to stun.

I prom­ise that if you make this tart, you will not re­gret it. It is, in my opin­ion, one of the very best ways to show­case suc­cu­lent, sweet straw­ber­ries in the sum­mer time.

If you’re mak­ing the dough in a food pro­ces­sor, add in the sifted flour, the sifted ic­ing su­gar and the chilled cubes of but­ter and whizz ev­ery­thing briefly un­til the but­ter is in small lumps. Add half the beaten egg and con­tinue to whizz for just an­other few sec­onds un­til the mix­ture looks as though it may come to­gether when pressed (pro­longed pro­cess­ing will only toughen the pas­try, so don’t whizz it up un­til it is a ball of dough). You might need to add a lit­tle more beaten egg, but don’t add too much, as the mix­ture should be just moist enough to come to­gether.

If you’re mak­ing the pas­try by hand, rub the chilled cubes of but­ter into the sifted plain flour and sifted ic­ing su­gar un­til it re­sem­bles coarse bread­crumbs. Then, us­ing your hands, add just enough beaten egg to bring it to­gether. Set the left-over beaten egg aside. With your hands, flat­ten out the ball of dough un­til it is about 2cm (less than 1in) thick, then wrap it in cling film or put it in a plas­tic bag and leave in the fridge for at least 30 min­utes.

Af­ter half an hour, re­move the pas­try from the fridge and place it be­tween two sheets of cling film (make sure they are larger in size than your tart tin). Us­ing a rolling pin, roll out the pas­try to no thicker than ½ cm (less than ¼ in). If the tin is round, make sure to keep the pas­try in a round shape, and large enough to line the tin’s base and sides.

Re­move the top layer of cling film from the rolled-out pas­try. Place your hand, palm fac­ing up, un­der the cling film un­der­neath, then flip the pas­try over into the tart tin. The cling-film side will now be fac­ing up. Press the pas­try into the edges of the tin and, us­ing your thumb, ‘cut’ the pas­try along the edge of the tin for a neat fin­ish. Re­move the cling film, and, us­ing a fork, prick over the base of the tart. Chill the pas­try in the fridge for an­other 30 min­utes, or the freezer for 10 min­utes — it can keep for weeks like this in the freezer.

Once the pas­try has chilled, line it with parch­ment pa­per, leav­ing plenty to come up the sides and over the top. Fill the parch­ment-lined pas­try case with bak­ing beans or dried pulses (which can be reused again and again) and put it in the pre­heated oven. Bake it blind for about 25 min­utes un­til the pas­try feels just dry on the base. Re­move it from the oven, take out the bak­ing beans or dried pulses, which­ever you’re us­ing, and re­move the parch­ment pa­per. Brush the base of the pas­try with the left-over beaten egg, then cook it in the oven for an­other 3 min­utes — this will ‘seal’ the pas­try, pre­vent­ing any mois­ture from the al­mond fill­ing soak­ing in. When the pas­try has been com­pletely baked blind, take it out of the oven and set aside.

Re­duce the oven heat to 160°C, 325°F, Gas 3.

Now, make the al­mond fill­ing. In a bowl, beat the soft but­ter and the caster su­gar to­gether un­til they are soft and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the ground al­monds and the Amaretto, if you’re us­ing it, un­til both are in­cor­po­rated. Pour the al­mond fill­ing into the pas­try case and put the tart in the oven. Bake it for about 40 min­utes un­til it is set in the cen­tre. Al­low the tart to cool, then care­fully re­move the sides of the tin. Place the tart on a serv­ing plate, and slide the tart off the base of the tin. Ar­range the straw­ber­ries on the tart to cover the top, or serve them on the side. Serve with softly whipped cream.

See face­book.com/ aedamarscurds for more in­for­ma­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.