It is that time of year again – Irish strawberries are making a welcome appearance on shop shelves and on roadside stalls.
There is such an astronomical difference in a berry grown here, one that is ripened on the plant, rather than those that are picked before their prime and shipped in cold-storage. The intense and wonderful perfume and taste get lost on their long journey.
The idea of seasonal eating may seem like a romantic notion today but there was a time when strawberries were very much a marker of the summer, and I am sure were ever that bit sweeter for their short season.
One of the simplest and most delectable desserts is chopped strawberries tossed in a little sugar and served with whipped cream. I recently folded some elderflower cordial through the cream and it was delicious. Adding a sprinkling of crushed amoretti biscuits can make for added texture and flavour — there are an assortment of additions you can make, but sometimes uncomplicated is best.
The granita included here can be served in many different ways. It is refreshing on its own or can be plated alongside another dessert like a panna cotta. It also works well with a spoon or two added to a glass of prosecco. Another strawberry based cocktail to serve at a summer party is a blended drink made of rosé, ice, fresh strawberries and honey (with or without a little hint of lemon) blitzed together and served in a cool glass. A nice start to a meal.
Blitz the strawberries, zest and leaves until they form a puree.
Heat the sugar and water over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the strawberry puree and simmer a medium heat for about six minutes. Strain it through a sieve and allow to cool slightly.
Pour into a container that is safe for the freezer. Freeze for an hour then scrape the top of the granita with a fork. Repeat this every hour for four hours until it is all fragmented, crystallised and frozen.
For the sponge
For the chocolate cream
Heat your oven 180 degrees and line two 6 inch spring form tins Mix your eggs and sugar with the balloon attachment until really light and fluffy.
Sieve in the flour and then fold so the mixture does not lose its volume.
Pour into the prepared tins and bake for about 18 minutes until the cakes have risen and are nice and golden.
Do not open the oven door while baking.
When they are cool enough to handle remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl balanced over a saucepan of boiling water.
Allow the chocolate to cool slightly but not enough that it begins to harden again.
Gently stir the chocolate through the whipped cream. It will lose some of the volume but should still stay light.
Smooth the chocolate cream onto the top of one of the cakes, dot the strawberries into the cream and then place the other sponge on top.
Decorate with more strawberries if you wish.
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees and line and grease an 8 inch springform tin.
Beat the butter, zest and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time. Slowly mix in the flour, orange juice and elderflower.
Scrape the batter and smooth it out. Scatter the strawberries on top and press them in with your fingers so that they are about half submerged. Bake for about an hour or until a skewer comes out of the sponge part of the cake clean. You will need to make sure not to stick the skewer into the strawberries.
Allow to cool in the tin.