Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Very Berry Nice

Here is a recipe for Strawberry Curd - this does not keep as long as jam, but like home-made lemon and other curds - will keep well in the fridge for several weeks.
Strawberry Curd:
8 oz (225g) ripe strawberries, hulled
4 large eggs
zest and juice of 2 lemons
9 oz (250g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) butter (pref unsalted)
Puree the strawberries, then push them through a sieve - this standing over a large bowl - to remove the seeds.
Beat the eggs and strain these into the bowl of strawberry puree, then add the rest of the ingredients.
Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (but not touching the water) and continually stir the mixture until it thickens (this could take up to half an hour).
Pour into warm, sterilised jars, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to cool. Cover in the usual way with a circle of waxed paper, then place on lids and store in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Strawberries do not freeze well as a complete fruit as they collapse when thawed, but can be pureed (push through a fine sieve if you wish to remove the seeds) and this frozen for future use. Did once read an article where it was said strawberries could be sliced then laid on a wire rack (cake airer) and dried off in a low oven (probably overnight) and then could be stored for later use. Perhaps the dried strawberries could be ground up to add to cakes or sprinkle over ice-cream.
They might even be able to be sliced and placed between two sheets of kitchen paper and dried off in a microwave oven. If you have plenty of strawberries Donna, it might be worth experimenting and see if the above works. If you do, and have any success, please let us know.

As to using fresh strawberries - other than as - is (with cream of course), these can be used in many dishes, but again normally as a puree (or 'squashed'). One of the most popular dishes is Eton Mess, this being just a mixture of coarsely crushed meringues, lightly whipped cream and quartered strawberries all folded together just prior to serving (do it too early and the meringues will soften).

Using my 'soft-scoop' ice-cream recipe, the pureed strawberries can be folded into this and frozen to give a gorgeous strawberry flavour. The recipe below is virtually the same thing but a three-flavoured version adapted from one seen recently in a cookery magazine. Because this is not a true ice-cream (containing no custard) this is often called 'semi-freddo' and useful in that it can be taken to the table and sliced to serve. If you wish to make this less rich, use half thick Greek yogurt and half double cream.
When folding any two mixtures together, they fold more easily if the density is the same with each. So try to whip cream to the point where it can be easily folded into something, in other words not as thick as if wishing to pipe the cream.
It is often said that over-whipped cream then becomes useless for mixing into anything, but pouring over a little single cream and then gently whisking this in will slacken the cream down again to folding point.

Neapolitan Layered 'Soft-scoop': serves 6 - 8 (F)
3 egg whites
6 oz (175g) granulated sugar
3 tblsp water
1 x 600ml tub double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz (175g) ripe strawberries, hulled
1 tblsp icing sugar
3 oz (75g) dark chocolate, melted
Put the sugar and water into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a fast boil. Boil for 3 minutes (by which time it should have come to soft ball stage). Meanwhile whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then - while still beating - very slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the whites until it has all been whisked in. Continue beating until the mixture is really thick, then stand the bowl in cold water to help cool the mixture down. Another name for this is Italian Meringue.
Whip the cream with the vanilla extract, then fold this into the beaten whites. Divide this into three.
Mash or puree the strawberries with the icing sugar and fold this into one third of the 'meringue', fold the melted chocolate into another third, and leave the last plain.
Line a 2 lb loaf tin with cling film, and spoon the strawberry cream into the base levelling the surface. Top with with the plain mixture, and finally add the chocolate mixture. Cover with clingfilm and freeze overnight (or it can be frozen for several day). To serve, turn out onto a platter, remove clingfilm and allow to soften slightly for 10 minutes before slicing.

A favourite summer dessert consists of nothing more than sliced strawberries set in strawberry jelly (basic packet jelly) but the jelly made up with Babycham not water. First melt the jelly in a small amount of very hot water (easiest done in a microwave), then cool the jelly and then gently mix in enough Babycham to make up a pint. Pour this over a bowl of sliced and chilled strawberries and allow to set. Remarkably the bubbles stay held in the jelly, so each mouthful becomes quite an experience to eat.

Another suggestion is to buy a packet of cheesecake mix and make it up as per directions on the pack. After the biscuit base has been made, I like to beat in a tub of Philly-type low-fat cream cheese when making up the cheesecake mixture, then fold in some strawberry puree and also some chopped strawberries. Pour this over the biscuit base and leave to set in the fridge. Serve with sliced strawberries on the top.

A final thought - for really yummy nibbles, take large ripe but firm strawberries - still with the green stalks attached, and holding each by the stalk dip into melted chocolate so that it comes halfway up the fruit. Place stalk side down on a wire cake airer and when the chocolate has set place each in a paper case (mini muffin or sweet cases are ideal) and serve. Best made as soon as possible to serving, but they will keep for an hour or two.