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Serve up a strawberry ace
7:00am Saturday 22nd June 2013 in Lifestyle
Last year Wimbledon fans munched their way through 142,000 helpings of strawberries and 7,000 litres of fresh cream. Keeley Bolger rallies up three recipes to get you into the swing of summer.
It's not just Andy Murray who can serve up aces during the Wimbledon Championships. With British strawberry season in full flow, it doesn't take much for you to score top points with a pudding that everyone will love.
Strawberries have become synonymous with Wimbledon. So much so that the Championships simply wouldn't be the same without them.
Last year, Wimbledon guests got through 8,615 punnets a day during the two-week event. And serving up strawberries is serious business for Wimbledon organisers.
To ensure freshness, the berries - usually sourced from farms in Kent - are picked the day before serving.
Then at 5.30am, hours before the gates open to guests, the berries arrive at the famous grounds where they're carefully inspected before being hulled.
It's too soon to tell what the performances on court will be like this year, but the strawberries are tipped for a winning season - this summer's crops are expected to be better than ever, thanks to our frosty spring.
"Due to the harsh weather, the plants have grown very slowly, and as a result they've put down good, strong root systems," says Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits, an organisation which represents 85% of growers supplying berries to UK supermarkets.
"Because of this slow growth, the flavour has developed really well. Growers up and down the country are now reporting that the fruit is up to 40% sweeter and 15% larger than normal, so it could even be a vintage year for British strawberries."
The succulent berries are now available for much longer than ever before, too.
"It's remarkable if you compare where we are now to 20 years ago," says Olins. "Back then, the strawberry season was six weeks long: June and the first two weeks in July. The season conveniently reached its peak during Wimbledon fortnight, hence the tradition of strawberries and cream on Centre Court.
"Now, with decades of investment in protective covers and new varieties that taste better, keep longer and grow better, the British strawberry season is six months long."
To ensure strawberries taste their best, Olins advises keeping them cool. "Strawberries are best stored in the fridge, but for full flavour and aroma that immediately says 'summer', take them out an hour before eating, to let them come to room temperature. And as with any other delicate berries, wash and handle them gently to avoid bruising."
With so many strawberry varieties available, all in different shapes and sizes, take advantage of this year's 'berry' juicy crop with these three recipes for a succulent summer treat.
Pimm's jellies o'clock
200ml cloudy lemonade
100ml ginger beer
200ml Pimm's No 1
100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
A squeeze of lemon juice
100g caster sugar
4 leaves of fine-leaf gelatine
¼ cucumber, peeled and diced
150g strawberries, peeled and chopped
1tbsp finely shredded mint
Mix the lemonade, ginger beer, Pimm's, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar in a pan, and bring to simmering point.
Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatine and drop it into the hot Pimm's mixture. Stir to dissolve.
Pour the liquid into a large jug and, when cool, transfer to the fridge until barely set (this may take up to four hours). Mix the diced cucumber, strawberries and mint into the jelly mixture and divide between six glasses. Transfer to the fridge and leave to set fully overnight.
:: Recipe from Sainsbury's magazine
3 large eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 passion fruit
150ml whipping or double cream, whipped
Icing sugar, for dusting
Recipe requires one deep, round 20cm (8in) cake tin, and non-stick baking parchment
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160C/gas mark 4. Grease the tin then line the base with non-stick baking parchment.
Measure the egg yolks, sugar, orange zest and juice and the semolina into a bowl and beat until thoroughly blended.
In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry, then gently fold into the orange and semolina mixture. Turn into the prepared tin.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.
Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Reserve a few strawberries to decorate the top of the cake, then slice the remainder. Halve the passion fruit and scoop out the pulp. To fill the cold cake, cut it in half horizontally and sandwich the slices together with the sliced strawberries, passion fruit pulp and whipped cream. Just before serving, decorate with the reserved strawberries, sliced or left whole, and sift some icing sugar over the top.
:: Recipe from My Kitchen Table: 100 Cakes And Bakes by Mary Berry, published by BBC Books, £7.99.
For the cake:
100g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour
4tsp kirsch or creme de framboise
500-600g strawberries (reserve a large one to decorate the top of the cake)
For the Creme Mousseline:
240g caster sugar
50g plain flour
500ml semi-skimmed milk
250g butter, at room temperature
2tsp kirsch or creme de framboise
A few drops of vanilla extract
Pink food colouring
Recipe requires one 23cm round, springform cake tin and non-stick baking parchment
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4. Grease and line the cake tin.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl, using an electric whisk, until they are very pale and have doubled in volume. Sift over a third of the flour and fold in gently using a large metal spoon, being careful not to knock out the air. Fold in the remaining flour in two batches.
Carefully transfer the mixture to the tin, spreading it evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Creme Mousseline, firstly make a creme patissiere by putting the eggs, sugar, flour and 200ml of the milk in a saucepan and heating gently, stirring continuously, until it comes to a simmer.
Keep stirring until it is thickened and smooth, then gradually stir in the remaining milk. Simmer very gently for about three minutes. Dice half the butter and stir it in, a few pieces at a time, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat, press a piece of clingfilm over the surface to prevent a skin forming, and leave to cool.
Put the remaining butter into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until very soft and creamy. Gradually beat in the cooled pastry cream until you have a smooth, light mixture. Beat in the kirsch and vanilla, then chill.
To assemble, cut the sponge in half horizontally using a large serrated knife. Put one half into the cake tin you used earlier and brush all over with kirsch, then, using a palette knife, spread a thin layer of Creme Mousseline over it.
Cut about 12-14 strawberries in half lengthways and place around the edge of the cake, cut sides touching the tin, points upwards. Fill the centre with whole strawberries, points upwards. Spread enough of the Creme Mousseline on top to cover the strawberries and fill the gaps.
Brush the second sponge layer all over with kirsch, then place on top and press down gently. Remove the cake from the tin and cover the top and sides of the second sponge with the remaining Creme Mousseline.
To finish, knead a little pink colouring into the marzipan until you have an even colour. On a surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out the marzipan to 3mm thick. Cut out a 23cm circle, place on top of the cake and smooth out. Decorate the top of the cake with a sliced, fanned strawberry. Put the cake in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving.
:: Recipe by Claire Melvin from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook by Lynn Hill, published by Quercus, £20. (Photography by Emily Dennison)
:: The Wimbledon Championships take place from June 24-July 7
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