Chris’ delicious strawberry dessert
Chris McQuitty of The Salthouse in Ipswich shares his recipe for a refreshing summer pud.
So at long last the British summer is in full swing. Pimms is everywhere as is English asparagus and the one fruit that is quintessentially the trademark of the season – the strawberry.
The moderate climate that we have enjoyed this year has helped this gem. A decent downpour or two have nurtured the plants and the sunshine that encourages you out of bed at the weekend has promoted the fruit to grow ripe and plump, with that just correct amount of sugar. They’re world reknowned, the English strawberries. Even the proudest nation’s chefs will admit their alternative just isn’t so.
For my recipe I am going to elaborate on two of my favourite methods when it comes to strawberries. Masceration – by definition a technique which entails mixing a berry with sugar and an acid until they soften and release a syrup which you could happily guzzle down on it’s own and leaving the berry sweet, tart, soft and a beautifully bright colour. The other is Italian meringue – a timeless favourite of nearly every pastry chef that you may be lucky enough to find.
Recipe: Macerated strawberries, Italian meringue and mint and strawberry sorbet
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four decent sized strawberries per person
100g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
For the mint granita
10g picked mint leaves
1 lime juiced and zested
25g caster sugar
For the sorbet
100g pureed strawberries
30g glucose syrup
for the Italian meringue
2 egg whites
50g caster sugar
1tsp glucose syrup
1 Start at least half a day, or the day before you plan to eat the dish. For the sorbet warm the water with the sugar and glucose in a small saucepan on a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved and it has a syrupy appearance. The purpose of the sugar syrup is to prevent the sorbet crystallising, where the sorbet would have a grainy texture. It is also the basic element which stops an ice cream or sorbet freezing like a block of ice, and the inverted sugar syrip has a lessened sweet taste, allowing the natural sugar and flavour oft he strawberry puree to be the predominant flavour.
The mix should ideally be frozen in an ice cream maker, but it is possible to freeze it in a bowl, stirring at regular intervals.
2. It’s the presence of the mint granita in the final dish that refreshes and lifts the overall flavour, and again is a wonderful thnig on it’s own. personally I cannot think of anythign more pleasant as mart of a mojito, but that’s a different idea altogether. Again - not a difficult recipe.
Place the sugar and lime zest and juice, water and sugar in a pan and cook on a low heat until the sugar dissolves. It is important not to boil it as this will turn your beautiful granita brown. Once your sugar has disappeared add the leaves and blend until the mix is a uniform colour. Then simply pop it in the freezer in a tub - it’s that simple.
3. For the macerated strawberries simply mix the sugar, lemon juice and water together in a bowl. Hull the strawberries and add them to the bowl too. An age old tip, which I’m pretty sure I will never forget that an Australian chef once gave me was to slice the top and bottom off of the lemon before you attempt to juice it, whihc will allow you to get the largest amount of juice without giving you a thorough workout. Leave your strawberries in the bowl to do their thing. Maceration will take at least 15 minutes, however you can leave them in the syrup for as long as 24 hours. The only result will be one that improves.
4 The Italian meringue is another important part of this dish, and provides a vast amount of the sweetmenss. Italian meringue is one of my personal favoruite things to make as it has a few key variables. The principles are very basic - sugar syrup to a specific temperature then whipped into egg whites - but the amount of air already in the whites prior to the syrup being added plays an important role. Too much and it will have a slightly lumpy appearance, too little and it it will simply be a runny mess. The key temperature to remember is 121C.
To make the meringue whip the egg whites in a bowl until they form and hold peaks. You should be able to do the infamous ‘upside down’ trick where you literally turn the bowl upside down without them moving.
Next put the sugar, water and glucose in a small pan. Another chef’s trick is to run your finger under water before attempting to coax the syrup frmo the spoon - no sticky fingers.
Dissolve the sugar on a low heat and then heat the mix to 121C on a sugar thermometer, then slowly whisk it into the whites. The temperature of the syrup cooks the whites and sets the meringue.The easiest way to use the meringue is to pop it in a piping bag -easier to serve and use.
5. Put all the elements together to create the finished dish, which we think is quite nice.