Me and Fran got married at this time of year, six years ago. June is the height of strawberry season in England, and three days before our wedding we got nicely sun-burned at a pick-your-own. It was 26C and beautiful. Three days later it was 8C and raining. And our skins matched the strawberries in the huge bowls of Eton mess made by my mother, Helen.*
This June is shaping up pretty similarly. Summer one day, winter the next. But the strawberries are still good. I got a big tray at reduced price the other day. That same week, the Guardian’s Saturday Cook section featured recipes from Tom Hunt. Tom, who I met at Rachel’s book launch last week, is the chef, founder of Poco restaurant in Bristol and author of Guardian The Natural Cook. His ethos is one of combating waste and encouraging sustainability and seasonality. Hence the strawberries recipes right now.
There was a fruit and veg stall in the precinct the other day and their strawberries were imported from Holland. Why? Are there none from Sussex or the southeast of England? Does it really economic sense to ship them across the channel? Possibly with our skewy economics, but it doesn’t seem to make environmental sense.
Fellow Brits – enjoy British strawberries why you can! The more local the better. Then enjoy them again next year, when they’ll taste even better for being a seasonal treat.
Or make big batches of ice cream and preserves to spin out the pleasure.
Tom’s ice cream recipe is wonderfully simple: strawberries, macerated and quickly boiled with some sugar, whipped cream, some mascarpone. Best of all, it doesn’t call for an ice cream maker. I know you can make most ice creams by hand-churning, without a machine, but it always puts me off when the recipe stipulates a machine, one piece of kitchen kit I don’t have.
I served it with a puree made from some of the other strawberries, which I macerated in some blackberry gin made by our friend Becky in 2010, and with galettes aux vin blanc. These could be called “white wine biscuits” and are another recipe from the 2011 edition of The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot, which I talked about in the previous post.
The galettes are not unlike a type of shortbread, -ish, and as strawberries and shortbread are a classic combo, it seemed to make sense. (In all honesty they’re not as delicates and short as shortbread; they’ve got more body.) I also had some white plonk that needed using up.
200g plain (all-purpose) flour
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of fine sea salt
45g white wine (3 tbsp)
1 egg yolk, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 200C and grease a couple of baking sheets.
2. Put the flour in a roomy bowl.
3. Stir in the sugar and salt, pour in the wine then add the butter, cut into small pieces.
4. Get your hands in there and squidge it all together to form a dough.
5. Lightly flour the work surface and turn out the dough. Knead lightly to homogenize but don’t over-work it.
6. Roll out the dough to 5mm thick.
7. Cut circles with a round pastry cutter. One with a diameter of about 5cm (2″) is good.
8. Put on the baking sheets, brush with beaten egg yolk to glaze and bake for about 15 minutes until nicely golden.
9. Allow to cool.
Serve with strawberry ice cream. I’m not sure this is how the French would eat galettes aux vin blanc. They would probably add some actual wine consumption to the mix – quite possibly a dessert wine. French-speaking Francophile Fran can give me no further information on this issue. Any French who read this, please do let me know.
* We were a little burned, but not really strawberry coloured. That was a joke. I’m lucky as I’m fairly dark skinned for an Anglo-Saxon-British mongrel, Fran not so much. Kids – don’t forget that sun-block, especially if you’re fair-skinned.