The fruitful highlight of summer (well, aside from ice-cream and jelly shoes), strawberries are the berry version equivalent of the nectar of the gods. An instant mood booster, Summer 2014 has been a bumper year for the strawberry crop, making it easier than ever to create the perfect sunshine crowd pleaser.
My all time favourite strawberry variety is by far and away the heaven sent Jubilee. This queen of the crop is distinguished by their vibrant colour, perfect heart-shaped form and intensely flavoured super-sweet taste. In fact, they are so tasty there is always a reason just to eat them straight from the punnet. However, for some real homespun goodness, and to help take the stress out of finding something that little bit different for expectant diners, make summer entertaining a cinch by following my quick, no-fuss recipes for a simple yet decadent affair.
Balsamic and Strawberry-glazed mini sausages
Serves about 20 people
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
5 x pack of 20 cocktail sausages
100g Jubilee strawberries
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a handful of fresh thyme leaves
1. Puree the strawberries in a blender, then pass through a sieve to remove all the seeds. In a small pan, add the puree, caster sugar and balsamic vinegar and warm through until the sugar has dissolved and the consistency thickens.
2. Cook the sausages in the oven as per the pack instructions. Half way through cooking, remove from the oven and brush the glaze all over the sausages. Return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking.
3. When ready to serve, sprinkle over the thyme. Delicious eaten hot or cold.
Strawberry, tomato & basil bruschetta
Makes 8 slices
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Sourdough, or other crusty bread, cut into 8 slices 1cm thick
200g Jubilee Strawberries, chopped into small pieces
100g cherry or pomodorino tomatoes, quartered
a handful of basil leaves, larger leaves roughly torn
3 tbsp ex-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in half
pinch of salt and black pepper
1. Drizzle the slices of bread with olive oil and toast on both sides in a hot griddle pan. Remove from the pan and lightly rub with the cut garlic cloves and add a drizzle of olive oil.
2. Divide the strawberries and tomatoes on top, then add a few basil leaves. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and season with some salt and pepper before serving.
Strawberry, avocado & spinach salad with bacon and poppy seed dressing
To enjoy as a vegeatarian option, simply omit the bacon.
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
150g Jubilee Strawberries, sliced
½ avocado, cut into slices
a large handful of young leaf spinach
100g bacon lardons
1 heaped tsp sunflower seeds
For the poppy seed dressing
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
50g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
1. For the salad, begin by cooking the bacon lardons in a pan for 5 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Set aside.
2. Make the dressing by adding all the ingredients together in a jar, close with a lid and shake until well combined and smooth.
3. When ready to serve, place the strawberries, young leaf spinach, avocado and bacon into a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. (the dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about a week)
Strawberry, Lime & ginger nut cheesecake
Prep 30 minutes, plus chilling time
Cook 15-20 minutes
125g ginger nut biscuits
25g unsalted butter, melted
100g Total Greek yoghurt
50g icing sugar, sifted
100g Jubilee strawberries, plus extra strawberries for decoration
2 limes, zest only
For the lime curd
1 lime, zest and juice
50g golden caster sugar
25g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg, plus one egg yolk, lightly whisked
1 tbsp Jubilee strawberry jam
1. Begin by making the lime curd. Place the lime zest and juice, sugar and butter into a large heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not in contact with the water, and stir every so often until the butter has completely melted. Add the eggs and whisk until combined. Continuing on a low heat, leave to cook for 8-10 minutes occasionally stirring, or until the mixture is thick and creamy enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, and set aside to completely cool.
2. Whizz the biscuits in a blender until they form crumbs, then add the butter and pulse again until combined. Divide evenly between the jars, and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour whilst preparing the filling.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, Greek yoghurt, icing sugar and zest of one lime until smooth. Carefully fold 100g chopped strawberries and spoon the filling over the biscuit bases, tapping each jar firmly on the work top to level the surface. Add a layer of the lime curd, then place a few sliced strawberries on top.
4. In a small pan, slowly heat the strawberry jam to create a glaze, then brush on top of the strawberries. Finish with a grating of zest from the remaining lime. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Makes 8 duffins
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Make up my recipe for Jubilee strawberry jam ahead and use for this recipe. (see below)
300g self-raising flour
150g caster sugar, plus 75g extra to coat
1 tsp ground mixed spice
pinch of salt
80ml sunflower or vegetable oil
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
8 tsp Jubilee strawberry jam
50g unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4 and grease well 8 holes from a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. Start by adding all the dry ingredients in a bowl; flour, sugar, mixed spice and salt. Then slowly stir in the oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla, and fold carefully until just combined.
3. Using either a piping bag or spoon, divide half the mixture into each muffin hole, then add a teaspoon of Jubilee jam into the centre. Cover the jam with the remainder of the batter mix and place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch.
4. Remove from the oven and place on to a wire rack. When the muffins are cool enough to handle, brush the surface of each with the melted butter, then roll them in the remaining sugar to evenly coat. Delicious served either warm or cool.
makes approx 4 x 450g (1lb) jars
Prep 20 minutes, plus standing
Cook 25 minutes
1.25kg strawberries, hulled and cut in half or quarters if large
1 lemon, juice only
900g pack preserving sugar
You will also need:
4 x 450g (1lb) jam jars with lids and 4 waxed discs
1. Put the strawberries in a large bowl with the lemon juice, and set aside for at least an hour.
2. Place the strawberry mixture into a large preserving pan (or a very large saucepan) and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the strawberries have reduced to a soft pulp – you can add a little water if the fruit sticks to the base of the pan.
3. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until it is completely dissolved. Raise the heat and bring to the boil. Cook the jam at a rapid boil, stirring occasionally to prevent the jam burning on the bottom of the pan. The jam should take 7-10 minutes to reach setting point – to test when it is ready spoon a small amount of jam on to a cold saucer. Leave for one minute and then, using the tip of your finger, push the jam and if it wrinkles then setting point has been reached. If it isn’t quite ready, continue to boil the jam and test 2 minutes later.
4. Towards the end of the cooking time, sterilise the jars. Preheat the oven to 120C, fan 110C. Wash and dry the jars, place them on a baking tray and heat in the oven for 10 minutes.
5. Pour the jam into the hot jars, add a waxed disc to each one and seal with a lid. When the jam is cold, it is ready to eat!