Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Finally its summer. The shorts are on, suntan a nice healthy share of lobster. Ok. Full disclosure here, this gets written a good month before its published. So for anyone looking out of the window at it raining cats and dogs, I apologise. It was wishful thinking. But anyway, weather aside, strawberries are synonymous with British summer time; think summertime, where strawberries and cream are an institution – 28,000kg of strawberries are served each year, and 7000 litres of cream – at £2.50 a pop I’ll let you do the maths – I’ve run out of fingers (they also get through 28000 bottles of champagne and 230000 glasses of Pimms, but who’s counting….)
Anyway, back to the strawberries, obviously they are now available all year round. However, these imported varieties are picked under ripe in order to stop them turning to mush during transportation. However, this does not give the flavour time to develop, and so are vastly inferior to their seasonal British counterparts.
Funky strawberry fact: they are not actually a berry. Berries have seeds on the inside, strawberries the outside. They are however related to the rose. Five strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange. Which makes them healthy. Don’t hold this against them though, they taste pretty great, raw or cooked, and have been one of our most popular fruits for centuries. The Romans used them for their medicinal qualities, (prescribing them for anything from depression to bad breath, and cultivated in Europe from the 14th century – Charles V of France had 1200 strawberry plants in his garden, and he was known as ‘the wise’…
Onto the UK, and during medieval Britain, strawberries were eaten with sour cream and Borage as a breakfast for newly weds, due to its aphrodisiac qualities. As it has just been pointed out this has featured in the past two articles also, I think we should move swiftly on.
The quintessential pairing with cream is credited to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who instructed his cooks to serve it at his lavish parties for Henry VIII at Hampton Court.
So this months recipe is Baked Alaska. Served with a strawberry syrup and berries, it epitomises summer: hot meringue, cold ice cream, it can be made in advance and kept in the freezer, before banging it in the oven – making it perfect for dinner parties so you can impress without breaking a sweat.
Yield: 10 portions
Meringue: 200g egg white 400g icing sugar
Biscuit base: 90g plain flour 90g ground almonds 120g icing sugar 80g honey 220g beurre noisette 220g lightly beaten egg white
Ice cream: 10 balls Vanilla IceCream (we make our own here at the restaurant, but a shop bought variety will work just as well)
Strawberry Syrup: 500g Strawberries, 50g Sugar, Juice 1 lime
Ice cream: Ball ice cream
Meringue: Whisk egg till starts foaming. Add Icing sugar slowly. Whisk till stiff.
Biscuit base: mix dry ingredients with honey and butter. Fold in egg white. Bake 180 deg 6 mins approx.
Assembly: Ball ice cream, place on biscuit base. Pipe meringue round sides. Refreeze. Bake in oven 240degrees, 4-5 mins till meringue cooked. Serve in bowl with berries and pour on strawberry soup
Wine Match: Aprils Castello Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui would work fantastically with this – for anyone who can’t guess, I am quite a fan of strawberry flavoured dessert wine. Fizzy wine is always a good bet, jut ensure you pick a slightly sweeter wine, a crisp dry wine will taste sour next to the sweetness of the meringue. My recommendation this month is a Monbazillac sweet wine, from the south west of France, close to the town of Bergerac. Similar to sauternes, this months featured wine is Chateau Haut-Bernasse Le Clos Monbazillac2005, and is made using the same grape varieties as sauternes (Semillon, sauvignon blanc, muscadelle), its more famous (and expensive) cousin. A rich gold colour, and sweet, with honey, apricot and berry notes, it pairs extremely well with the berries in the dish.