Summer means one thing in my kitchen, lots and lots of strawberries! Whilst I may occasionally buy a punnet at other times in the year, I am invariably disappointed. Out of season strawberries just seem to lack the deeply red skin and flesh that's so juicy you'd be best to have a napkin on hand! It's no wonder really, they have to travel in from abroad so can't be picked as close to ripening for fear of spoiling. Not so with a British strawberry, and it's certainly not an issue when I venture out into the field on a PYO expedition.
If there's one tip I can give you it is to shun a punnet over brimming with those huge shiny red ones from the supermarket. You might get lucky and have a container full of huge tasty strawbs but the more likely scenario is that they will be positively bland compared to their smaller siblings. Instead, have a look for the batch containing small strawberries that have a decent reddy hue to them. That way you can be sure they are both, close to ripe but also intensely fruity.
Reading the observer a few weeks ago I came across this intriguing and wonderfully recipe by Nigel Slater for strawberries and saffron cream. What a lovely way to jazz up an old classic, the earthy yet floral notes of the saffron really do work with a bowl of fragrant strawberries.
It was to this recipe that I returned when faced with the prospect of cooking for a friend in the midst of our house move. I wanted something exciting yet easy and this fit the bill nicely. Having had an array of Middle eastern mezze the saffron fit the theme perfectly, this time though I macerated the strawberries in rose water and the result was sublime and of course reminiscent of Turkish Delight. Floral, fragrant, earthy, sweet and with a hint of extra freshness from the mint spring, I think this might become my go to easy dessert for the rest of the summer!
Rosey Strawberries with Saffron Cream
In a bowl mix:
250g strawberries - halved or quartered, what ever takes your fancy.
1/2 - 1 tsp rose water (you really don't need much but it will depend on the brand you use, mine is particularly rosey)
1tbsp rice malt syrup (agave or honey would also work)
Leave to macerate for 20-30 minutes.
At the same time, pop a good pinch of saffron into 1tbsp boiling water and allow it to steep for 20-30 minutes as well. Then just mix it, strands and all into 150g of extra thick double cream.
Serve the two together with a sprig of mint.
*** any left over strawberries make a fantastic breakfast with my nutty coconut granola and a heap of Greek yoghurt ***