Rachel Allen: Strawberries are the taste of Summer
As a child, Rachel started a love affair with strawberries. Here are some of her favourite recipes using the queen of fruit.
When asked which foods I loved as a child, I don't have to think twice: roast chicken, mashed potatoes and peas. And strawberries. Loads of them.
One summer, when I was probably about eight or nine, I ate so many that I came out in a bumpy, itchy rash all over and was advised to leave them out of my diet for a while. Thankfully, by the following summer, my body was able to cope with them again and, from then on, my love affair with the sweet, squishy, heart-shaped berries continued.
Jam-packed with vitamin C and also containing potassium, folic acid and fibre, it's no wonder these little red powerhouses have been called queen of the fruits by the Asians for centuries.
In ancient Roman times, the wild strawberry – which, like its cultivated cousin, is actually a member of the rose family – was used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, such as alleviating gout, fever, kidney stones and bad breath.
Sometimes, I feel like strawberries are cheating. So impossibly sweet and juicy, and so beguiling in brilliant scarlet red. When they're at their best, I like to eat them with nothing else. Not even a little cream. I've had them with rose wine, black pepper, or balsamic vinegar. But, to me, the most delicious strawberries should be served alone and allowed to speak entirely for themselves.
That said, the cook in me can't wait to use strawberries in every dessert I can think of. Before I make that dessert, though, I'll make myself a divine strawberry daiquiri. They're really refreshing and deliciously easy to put together, plus you can, of course, make a virgin daiquiri by just leaving out the vodka or rum.
The iced strawberry meringue cake is a lovely cake that's perfect for a summer birthday. Not technically a cake, it's more like a mixture of meringue and ice cream, but still in the shape of a cake. It's very simple to make, but you do need a little planning as you'll need to freeze it overnight.
Iced strawberry meringue cake
You will need:
200g (7oz) strawberries, hulled and quartered
The juice of 1 lemon
50g (2oz) icing sugar
400g (14oz) meringue
250ml (9fl oz) double cream, softly whipped
First, make the strawberry sauce. Whizz the strawberries with the lemon juice and the icing sugar, then pour through a sieve into a bowl and discard the seeds. Crumble the meringue into the cream and swirl through the sauce.
Line a 23cm (9in) springform cake tin with cling film, then pour the mixture into the lined tin. Completely cover in cling film and freeze overnight.
Remove from the freezer for three minutes before serving.
You will need:
150ml (5fl oz) white rum or vodka
250g (9oz) fresh or frozen strawberries (you could also use fresh or frozen raspberries)
75ml (3fl oz) lime juice (approximately 3 limes)
100-125ml (3½-4½fl oz) stock syrup (see recipe below), to taste
Crushed ice, to serve
Place the white rum or vodka, whichever you are using, the strawberries or raspberries, whichever you are using, the lime juice and 100ml (3½fl oz) of the stock syrup in a blender and whizz until smooth.
Taste and add more stock syrup if necessary. Pour into tumblers half filled with crushed ice.
You will need:
200g (7oz or scant 1 cup) caster sugar
200ml (7fl oz or scant 1 cup) water
Place the caster sugar and the water into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, boil for two minutes and then allow to cool.
Strawberry Ice Cream
Serves 12 people.
You will need:
250g (9oz) fresh or frozen strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon
250g (9oz) caster sugar
200ml (7fl oz) water
4 large egg whites or 100g (4oz) egg whites
A pinch of cream of tartar
300ml (10fl oz) cream, whipped
Puree the strawberries with the lemon juice. You can use a liquidiser or food processor to do this.Or you could mash them with a fork, but be careful not to leave them too rough as they can get a bit icy!
Push the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds.
Place the sugar and the water in a saucepan, and heat slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Boil fiercely for 5 minutes, until it thickens and the last drops off a spoon dipped into it form a kind of thread.
Meanwhile, using an electric whisk, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff.
Still whisking, gradually pour in the hot syrup in a thin stream, and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool, glossy and stiff (about 4 or 5 minutes).
Fold in the strawberry puree and the whipped cream, though not completely – I quite like to leave this slightly marbled. Freeze overnight. This ice cream can be scooped straight from the freezer.
Cream of tartar is slightly acidic, so adding a pinch when you're whisking egg whites will help you get more volume and stability.
One of the most affordable ways to buy masses of strawberries is to visit a pick-your-own farm. It also makes for a great day out. Look online for a pick-your-own farm near you!
Photos: Tony Gavin.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine