What could be more summery than strawberries? I have written before that in Currabinny we have quite the production of the fruit.
One of our neighbours has taken full advantage of what we like to boast is a microclimate (not verified by anyone but the good and honest people of Currabinny). These particularly industrious neighbours have erected several huge polytunnels which stretch the length of their land.
Throughout the summer months, the picking begins, becoming all hands on deck for May and June, but continuing into August as well.
Strawberries are usually picked in the morning or earlier on in the day to guarantee freshness.
They are then in store either later that day or the next day. Strawberries need to be fresh, which is part of the reason why there is such a huge tradition in commercial strawberry growing compared with other berries or fruit, which are often imported.
It is also for this very reason that strawberries should be primarily seen as a strictly seasonal product, not including the various and wonderful things like jams and ices to make them last through the year.
Strawberries also need lots of rain, which we have here in abundance. Strawberries are usually grown in polytunnels so rainwater is collected and then recycled for use in growing.
Instead of pesticides, certain predatory insects can be used to eat the insects that eat the crops.
All of these methods make strawberries one of Ireland's most sustainable, successful and most importantly, delicious products. We have all experienced that wonderful bite into a good strawberry on a summer's day. The pure joy strawberries offer is part of the reason I prefer to fiddle with them as minimally as possible.
The recipes included here are all about capturing that jubilant freshness as much as possible.
This simple recipe both captures strawberries at their best and also makes them last a little longer.
When you have devoured all the strawberries, the syrup left over makes a deliciously tangy sweet dressing. Serve this however you like, I personally love it whipped into cream and broken meringue for a gorgeous Eton mess. Recipes for this often tell you a mere drizzle of balsamic will do, my preference is for good lashings of it.
500g fresh strawberries, topped and cut in half
6 - 8 tbsp of good balsamic vinegar
4-6 tbsp of caster sugar
Place the strawberries in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, stir through before adding the balsamic vinegar. Stir around the bowl until all of the strawberries are well coated.
Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour. I like to stir them around every now and again while they marinate in the fridge.
We have recently discovered long pepper and how amazing it is with fresh strawberries. Simply crush and sprinkle over the strawberries as you would do with black pepper. It gives a sweet, earthy heat which works beautifully with strawberries to elevate them. If you cannot find long peppers, then black pepper also works surprisingly well with strawberries.
375g all butter puff pastry rolled out
12 strawberries, topped and quartered
Golden caster sugar for sprinkling
Basil or mint leaves for garnish
1 egg beaten
500g creme fraiche or lightly whipped cream
2-3 long pepper, crushed (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Place the rolled out puff pastry on a lightly floured board and brush all over with the beaten egg.
Sprinkle the caster sugar all over generously. Loosely roll the pastry from each side as if rolling the pages of a book towards the middle. The rolls of each side of the pastry should meet in the middle so you have a sort of binoculars-shaped roll. Slice the pastry into 12 pieces and lay flat on a lined baking sheet, sprinkle a little more sugar over them. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire wrack.
Serve the palmiers with some freshly sliced strawberries and either creme fraiche or lightly whipped cream. Sprinkle a little long pepper or black pepper on the strawberries and garnish with basil or mint leaves.
I have never been the biggest fan of ice cream, or at least not enough of a fan to go about making my own. I’ll happily eat it when I am on my holidays in somewhere like Italy or of course down in Dingle but making it myself was never that appealing. I am tragically lazy, as you may have noticed from my exuberance at any recipe that is more about simply bringing gorgeous ingredients together than labouring over complicated methods only to forget about it in the oven, leaving whatever it was to burn. Down in Ballymaloe I learned the beautiful, simple art of making granita, which is essentially a fruit ice. Unlike ice cream, or Italian ice, granita allows for the development of ice crystals which you help form by agitating the semi frozen liquid while it is in the freezer.
500g strawberries, topped
120ml elderflower cordial
Blitz the strawberries thoroughly into a scarlet puree, almost like a smoothie. Stir the elderflower cordial into this until all is combined. Pour into a freezable lunchbox with a lid. Place in the freezer for around two hours, checking regularly to give it a stir, moving the ice crystals forming on the perimeter into the middle. The result will be a beautiful crushed ice effect.