ANNABEL LANGBEIN

Straw­ber­ries

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

Last night bought pun­net of lovely look­ing big straw­ber­ries, plan­ning to en­joy them for dessert af­ter our sim­ple fish taco din­ner. Prices are start­ing to drop now the sea­son is in full swing, and I was ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing gorg­ing my­self on their lush, juicy sweet­ness.

I washed my ruby trea­sures and started to slice them into a bowl. They were en­tirely red on the out­side so I as­sumed they would be beau­ti­fully ripe (usu­ally un­ripe straw­ber­ries are white or green­ish­white on the base). But as I sliced them, I dis­cov­ered a hard, hol­low, white in­ner core. They were so firm that I could drop them on the floor with­out them in­cur­ring any bruis­ing. They had zero fra­grance and al­most no flavour. Talk about dis­ap­point­ing.

So what is go­ing on here?

The straw­berry be­longs to the genus fra­garia, de­rived from the Latin “fra­grans”, which means sweet-smelling. A mem­ber of the rose fam­ily, straw­ber­ries are na­tive to Europe, North Amer­ica and Chile. Most straw­ber­ries grown up un­til the late 1700s were se­lec­tions of these species and the fruit was smaller than a 10c coin. If you have ever tasted a tiny wood­land straw­berry or the small French mara des bois straw­ber­ries, you will re­alise why this species was named fra­garia. These fruit are in­tensely aro­matic and wildy flavour­some.

Since then, sci­ence has dra­mat­i­cally changed the straw­berry. For the grower, there have been huge im­prove­ments in yield, pest and disease re­sis­tance, size and keep­ing quality. But that in­cred­i­ble fra­grance and sweet tangy flavour are get­ting harder to find. Frus­trat­ingly, we can buy named va­ri­eties of straw­berry plants, but the fruit are sold merely as “straw­ber­ries”, with no in­di­ca­tion as to the va­ri­ety.

Straw­ber­ries have a very high wa­ter con­tent and col­lapse on cook­ing and, if frozen, on thaw­ing. Slow-roast­ing is a great way to in­ten­sify their sweet­ness. Sprin­kle them with a lit­tle caster sugar and driz­zle with bal­samic glaze be­fore roast­ing them for an hour or so in a low oven (about 130C) un­til they soften.

Both fresh and cooked straw­ber­ries make a fabulous puree. I like to add a lit­tle sugar and lemon juice or or­ange blos­som wa­ter (avail­able at spe­cial­ity food stores, this brings out the fruit’s flavour and adds an elu­sive flo­ral quality). Straw­berry puree will keep in the fridge for a day or two (longer if us­ing cooked berries) and is di­vine driz­zled over vanilla ice­cream or a cream-cov­ered pavlova, folded through Eton Mess or folded in equal parts through whipped cream for a de­li­cious old-fash­ioned fool. STRAW­BER­RIES WITH SUGARED AL­MONDS

Ready in 20 mins Serves 6

1 cup flaked al­monds

¼ cup ic­ing sugar

2 pun­nets (500g) straw­ber­ries, hulled and halved (or quar­tered if large)

2 Tbsp honey

Ahand­ful of ed­i­ble flow­ers, such as bor­age, marigold or rose petals (op­tional)

Pre­heat oven to 160C fan­bake and line an oven tray with bak­ing pa­per. Place al­monds in a sieve, run un­der cold wa­ter, shake off ex­cess and stir through ic­ing sugar. Spread on pre­pared tray so they over­lap a lit­tle. Bake un­til golden and crisp (12-15 min­utes). If not us­ing at once, cool and store in an air­tight con­tainer for up to a month. When ready to serve, di­vide straw­ber­ries be­tween 6 serv­ing bowls and driz­zle each with a lit­tle honey. Break the sugared al­monds into chunks and sprin­kle over the straw­ber­ries with a few flow­ers if de­sired.

Annabel says: Crunchy nut clus­ters are the per­fect foil for sweet, juicy fresh straw­ber­ries in this easy dessert — or even break­fast — dish. ONE-STEP STRAW­BERRY AND LEMON ICE­CREAM

Ready in 5 mins + freez­ing Serves 4-6

1 pun­net (250g) straw­ber­ries, hulled 300ml cream, chilled

2 cups ic­ing sugar

3 Tbsp lemon juice

Place ev­ery­thing in a food pro­ces­sor and blend to­gether un­til it is very thick and smooth (you can also use a hand wand mixer). Trans­fer to a freez­er­proof con­tainer, cover and freeze for at least 6 hours or un­til fully set. It will keep fresh for sev­eral weeks.

Annabel says: There’s a lot of ic­ing sugar in this heav­enly ice­cream recipe, but that’s what en­sures a silky smooth tex­ture. It’s im­por­tant to blend it thor­oughly or you’ll get icy chunks of berry through the frozen mix­ture.

26

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.