THE British strawberry season is upon us once again so I'll be stocking up on berries for the next few months and incorporating them into the restaurant menu wherever I can.
We can, of course, buy imported strawberries all year round but these are usually picked and packaged while still slightly under-ripe. This means they survive transportation but at a cost to the flavour - once picked, strawberries do not ripen further.
The fully developed flavour of a ripe British strawberry is second to none so let's make the most of this glorious summer berry while we can because the UK season is very short.
The good news is that we're set for a bumper crop this year as demand for strawberries increases year on year. According to industry trade body, British Summer Fruits, strawberries will account for over half (£564 million) of the expected £1billion in sales from berries this year.
When buying strawberries, the scent is a good indicator of quality and smaller strawberries often have more flavour. Strawberries absorb water easily so it is best to gently wipe them with damp kitchen paper rather than washing them.
This is a fantastic summer dessert which looks and tastes amazing. We've actually got this on the restaurant menu this week and I've made some delicious black pepper and balsamic ice cream to serve with it (pepper and balsamic vinegar pair really well with strawberries).
So if you're in the neighbourhood, pop in and try it! You can also serve this with vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of mascarpone.
500g ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry
850ml milk (preferably full fat)
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cornflour
20 strawberries (approx)
350g good quality strawberry jam
Pre-heat the oven to 200c/180c (fan assisted)
Roll out the pastry to a 5mm thickness and use to line a 23cm (9-inch) loose-based tart tin. Trim the excess from around the edges, then line the base with baking paper and baking beans and 'bake blind' for 20 minutes. Remove the baking paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until the base is cooked and the pastry is golden. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, make the crème anglaise by gently heating the milk in a saucepan. Slice the vanilla pod lengthways, scrape out the seeds and stir into the milk. Allow the milk to get hot but don't let it boil.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy in appearance. Sieve the cornflour into the bowl and mix well. Slowly pour the warm milk into the bowl, whisking continuously until well combined. Transfer back to the pan and return to the heat, stirring until thickened to a custard consistency. Allow to cool before pouring into the pastry case.
Hull the strawberries and slice in half lengthways. Place them on top of the custard, positioning them close together with as few gaps as possible.
Warm the jam in a saucepan or microwave for a few minutes until melted.
Pass through a sieve to remove any seeds and then liberally brush over the strawberries to create a glossy sheen. Allow to cool and refrigerate for an hour or until ready to serve.