Just because I haven’t written enough strawberry-related posts of late….

I made these the other day – there were, as usual, some stray strawberries lying around, waiting eagerly to be chopped, sliced, pureed or whizzed into some more glamorous edible form and I had just made strawberry sorbet too, so thought that these little yummy slices of buttery goodness would be a nice accompaniment. They turned out to be just that – the shortbread has a lovely subtle almond flavour, and the strawberries, having caramelized slightly in the oven, add a sweet and chewy touch (plus, I think it makes them look pretty…) 

The recipe came from The Leiths Cookery Bible, which, since receiving it for my 21st, has become my first port of call for all things cookery-related (sorry Mary Berry/Delia). As the world ‘bible’ suggests, it is just an all-round, authoritative cookery aid – containing pretty much any classic recipe you can think of (plus contemporary ones too), cooking techniques, troubleshooting, suggestions of wine accompaniments for each course/recipe, dinner party planning, an extensive glossary, blah blah blah blah blah. In summary, I love it, as the food-stained pages clearly illustrate!

Makes 6-8

Ingredients

110g/4oz unsalted butter, softened
55g/20z caster sugar
55g/2oz plain flour
55g/20z ground almonds
55g/2oz ground rice
5-6 strawberries, sliced thinly

Preparation

– Preheat oven to 170C/325F.
– Stir together butter and sugar.
– Sift in flours and work into a smooth paste.
– Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to rougly 0.5cm thickness.
Now, I made the mistake of not doing this, but realised my error as I tried to cut the shortbread into pieces after it had come out of the oven and cooled (it just crumbled) – Cut the shortbread into whatever sized pieces you like and place on a baking sheet, making sure to separate pieces slightly.
– Take the sliced strawberries and place them on top of the shortbread pieces.
– Bake for 20 minutes, or until the shortbread turns golden.
– Take out of the oven and allow to cool.

These photos have diddly-squat to do with shortbread, but I just couldn’t help posting photos of the jam jars I just covered…

And another…

Yes, I am what you would call a horribly proud sloppy-jam-maker/jam-jar coverer.

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I have been doing obscene amounts of baking in recent days (including making scones at 8am last sunday morning, after returning from a relatively late saturday night out. Mad? Yes, perhaps), yet blogging so little. I have no excuse. Literally, none. I’m not working. I have bags of spare time. Organization/prioritization of my time is at an all time low…although I find this is always the way when you have very little on one’s plate. Let’s hope this changes before my Masters kicks into action…

Anyway – in recent weeks I have become moderately obsessed with strawberries. I just love how in these summer months, a punnet can always be found lurking somewhere in the fridge (put there by the strawberry fairy, yes), ready to be dipped into sugar, enjoyed with yoghurt for brekkie, turned into sorbet, smoothies, coulis, added to cake mixtures (the list goes on…); they have even recently found their way into green salads (not-so-well received by my mother though…)


Our main strawberry success (well, almost) has been our first ever batch of jam. My mum has been making marmalade for a while now – it even makes its way across the ocean to family/friends in Canada – but she has never ventured into strawberry jam territory. I, on the other hand, have only ever made lemon curd, which is wonderfully easy in comparison, but seems to spend the majority of its lifetime nestled in the shelf of the fridge, waiting to be plucked out of obscurity by the not-so-health conscious ones in our family. The jam, though, was a (mildly sloppy) success I’d say. We followed a foolproof recipe from an age-old copy of the Women’s Insitute Book of Jams and Preserves (which has subsequently gone missing – very upsetting!) – the only minor failing has been its runniness. It tastes wonderfully fresh, sweet and light, but does tend to slip off the spoon/knife onto the toast with a little too much ease. But who really cares about that?! (I’m going to blame it on strawberries’ low pectin content, although admittedly, it could have been improved with a little longer on the heat).


Makes about 5lb

Ingredients

1.5kg/3lb firm red strawberries, not too large preferably
Juice of 1 lemon
1.5kg/3lb granulated sugar

Preparation

– Hull the strawberries, throwing out any vaguely rotten ones.
– Place strawberries and lemon juice in a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently.
– Simmer very slowly for about half an hour (or until strawberries have lost their form).
– Whilst simmering strawberries, warm the sugar in a bowl in the oven/microwave (will help it to dissolve).
– Add the warmed sugar to the pan, stir until dissolved and turn the heat up until it reaches 105 C (setting point for jam), then perform the wrinkle test – place a blob of jam onto a cooled plate, return the plate to the fridge and after a couple of minutes, the jam should have formed a skin, causing it to wrinkle when pushed. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can boil it for about 15 minutes and then do the wrinkle test).
– If no wrinkles form, return to the heat and cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
– When it has passed the wrinkle test, take off the heat and skim the skum off the surface of the jam.
– Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
– Stir gently to distribute strawberry lumps and pour into warm, clean, dry and sterilized glass jars. Place waxed paper discs on top of the jam surface and screw lid on tightly.
– Leave and allow to set overnight.

(Be careful not to knock a freshly made/bottled jar of hot jam onto the clean white kitchen floor in the excitement of it all, as we did….!)

Pick Your Own!

June 24, 2011


So, from the bustling streets of Chennai we head to the little countryside lanes of Kent, England…

Whilst reading the paper this morning over breakfast, I noticed an advert for local fruit picking (at Maynard’s Farm, Ticehurst, East Sussex) and couldn’t remember the last time I had been, well, for pleasure that is. I won’t easily forget the cherry-picking job I took on the summer I left school – it was convenient, the farm was just across the road and at the time it seemed like fairly easy money. However…I had not accounted for the abundance of earwigs that lurked within the cherry-tree branches, crawling up one’s arms, legs, bucket strings etc – I am slightly ashamed to admit that this proved too much for me; I lasted a mere three days before quitting!

Today was a pleasant day (i.e. no rain and a vague hint of summer); my mum had a rare few hours off, and being currently job-less, I am always on the lookout for activities with which to wile away the hours…so we decided to head to the farm for some strawberry-picking. There’s just something lovely about picking fruit straight off the tree/bush and popping it into your mouth (for my mum, the punnet to mouth ratio was around 1:4!) Even better though is creating something out of the fruit that you yourself have picked – you know where exactly it came from and where it ends up – it completes the whole journey of that one piece of fruit. (Strawberry jam will follow shortly…)

In the last couple of weeks we have had a fair amount of rain though (ironically arriving just as a drought was officially declared), which has sadly, destroyed a lot of the local fruit crops just as they are ripening and ready for sale. So much so that the cherry farm across the road is having to make cherry juice out of the remainder of the fruit that rapidly over-ripened due to the wet weather and subsequent moist conditions.

Despite today finding that much of the fruit was split and moldy, there were, thankfully, still strawberries to be picked. We had a fun half an hour or so of nipping from row to row, rummaging around in the plants for those gorgeous sweet, ripe and brilliantly red strawberries!


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