Make the most of seasonal Irish strawberries
Pull over to that roadside vendor as stock up on strawberries for a sweet seasonal jam and strawberry cream cake
One of the best signs of Summer is when stalls by the roadside start to sell strawberries and new potatoes.
If you roll down the window of the car on a warm day you can smell the sweetness as you get close. How can you resist picking up fresh local strawberries? Once we’ve gorged ourselves on punnets of fresh, warm, sun kissed strawberries and licked our lips clean of the juices, what else can we do with them, if we have any left?
Jam is a way of capturing all the summer sunshine in a jar. Its beautiful warm from the pot, spread on toast and I like to keep at least one jar in the back of the cupboard for brightening up a dull day in the winter. It’s not all that difficult to make, the key thing to making strawberry jam is not to boil the jam too much.
Once you’ve made strawberry jam, why not reserve a little while it’s still warm and wow everybody with a Strawberry Cream Cake?
(makes approximately 1.5 litres or 4 large jam jars)
1kg fresh strawberries
800g jam sugar
First, take 4 clean jam jars, remove the lids and place them on a sturdy baking tray. Pop them into the oven and heat it to 120 degrees Celsius.
Next, wash and hull (removing the stalk) the strawberries. Pour them all into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Using a vegetable masher, mash down about ¾ of the strawberries. Leave the rest whole. Squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons; this will cut through the sweetness. Finally, stir in the sugar and stir well.
Set the saucepan on a medium heat and bring the contents to a simmer. Stir regularly, so the bottom of the saucepan doesn’t stick. Once it starts to bubble, turn on high and boil for 5 minutes. Set your stopwatch! After 5 minutes, remove from the heat altogether and allow to cool for a further 10 minutes before decanting into your sterilized jam jars.
Once the jam is cold, top with a wax paper circle, then a round of cellophane and seal with an elastic band. You can get all these things in a jam set in any supermarket.
Strawberry Cream Cake
3 medium eggs
3oz caster sugar
3 oz plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
300ml fresh cream
4 tablespoons of fresh strawberry jam (best if it’s still warm)
* 300g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
Preheat a (fan) oven to 170 degrees Celsius, line 2 sandwich tins (12cm diameter).
Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until light, frothy and the mixture has about trebled in size. Turn off the whisk. Stir baking powder into the flour, and then sieve 1/3 of the flour into the egg mixture. Fold using a metal spoon. Repeat two more times until the flour is gone.
Divide the cake batter between the two sandwich tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow cooling for 20 minutes before turning out of the tins and assembling the cake.
To assemble the cake
Whip the cream to soft peaks. Take 1 of the cakes and place it on a cake stand. Spread the top liberally with the strawberry jam. Top with 2/3 the chopped strawberries then lashings of whipped cream. Gently put the second cake on top. Sprinkle icing sugar over the top of the cake and finish with the remaining chopped strawberries.
This cake is best eaten on the day it is served but will keep for a further 24 hours in the fridge. Caitríona Redmond writes the food blog Wholesome Ireland and her first book “Wholesome” is available from Mercier Press and all good bookstores nationwide. You can find her on Twitter and on Facebook.