I’m not usually one for dressing a plate with multiple ‘textures’ of a fruit but when the strawberries taste their best, it seems foolish not to celebrate them in exuberant fashion.
This dessert uses strawberries as ice cream, granita, dried and in their natural state. Be sure to serve the fresh strawberries at room temperature, never straight from the fridge. The difference in flavour between a cold strawberry and one at room temp – or even better, one that’s just been picked and still warm from the sun – is astounding.
Taste them side by side and you’ll never serve a cold strawberry again. The rich double cream here should be spoonably thick.
If it isn’t, then whip it very lightly; the goal is a densely rich hit of cream rather than airiness.
See below for all the recipe’s component parts.
2–3 strawberries, hulled
2–3 chewy dried strawberries
1 large scoop strawberry ice cream
1 tsp rich double (heavy) cream
1 generous tbsp strawberry granita
Put a shallow bowl or lipped plate in the freezer to chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters depending on their size. You want each mouthful to have a piece of strawberry as well as all the other delicious things on the plate, so judge accordingly.
Cut the chewy dried strawberries in half and toss them with the fresh strawberries.
Scoop a large quenelle of the ice cream onto the chilled plate, slightly left of centre. Make a deep indent in the ice cream with a clean, hot spoon.
Fill the indent with the double cream and top with a generous spoon of the strawberry mix so that it tumbles over the ice cream into the centre of the plate.
Sprinkle over a large spoonful of granita to cover most of the ice cream with glimpses of all the different treasures underneath.
This granita brings back memories of running around sunny parks as a kid eating one of my favourite lollies, a strawberry split: vanilla ice cream coated in an icy layer of strawberry.
It’s the easiest of recipes once you’ve made the strawberry juice.
Strawberry juice (see recipe)
Caster sugar, to taste
Taste the juice to see if you are happy with the balance, adding a touch of sugar if it does not taste sweet enough.
Pour it into a shallow container and freeze.
Every couple of hours, scrape a fork through the freezing liquor so that you end up with large ice crystals rather than a fine snow.
Once it is completely frozen, scrape a fork through to break it up further.
After many summers of making this granita, the sugar levels always come out perfectly if you follow the strawberry juice method on this page.
Strawberry ice cream
If you get your hands on some extraordinary strawberries, make this ice cream. Intensely strawberry in flavour with a silky, creamy texture, I humbly say this will be some of the best ice cream you have ever had.
300g strawberries, hulled
90g caster sugar
100g strawberry juice
90g condensed milk
250ml double (heavy) cream
Pinch of salt
Put the strawberries and sugar in a blender and process until you have a smooth purée. Whisk in the strawberry juice, condensed milk, cream and salt.
Pour the ice cream base into a container and chill for at least four hours. Churn in an ice-cream machine then transfer to a container and leave to set in the freezer before serving.
Strawberry juice and chewy dried strawberries
To bump up the flavour in any strawberry dish, the juice is my secret ingredient. I macerate strawberries in sugar and cook them at a low temperature to draw out their incredible juices. The elixir that is created is remarkable.
Hull the strawberries by removing the green top. Use a small knife to cut around the leaves and pull out the hull. Please don’t just slice off the top of the fruit.
Cut the hulled strawberries in half.
Weigh the fruit and add 4–5 per cent of their weight in caster sugar, so 40–50g of sugar per kilogram of strawberries.
If your strawberries already taste very sweet, go for 4 per cent, but if they’re a bit sharper or more balanced, go for 5 per cent.
Toss the fruit to coat it evenly in the sugar.
You can cook this in one of two ways. Put the strawberries into a large bowl, cover it tightly with cling film and set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (bain-marie) for 30–40 minutes. The key is to cook them at a low temperature so that they keep their freshness.
Alternatively, vacuum seal bags of the macerating strawberries and steam (or cook in a water bath) at 65°C for 25–30 minutes.
The strawberries are ready when they have released lots of deep scarlet liquid.
Drain them through a colander to capture as much of the liquor as possible. Refrigerate the strawberry juice. I like to keep a stash of this in the freezer to use all summer long.
The cooked strawberries won’t look or taste great by now. They can be restored by drying them so they gain a chewy, gummy quality.
Lay them cut face up in a single layer on racks and dehydrate at 50–60°C for 5–6 hours.
A dehydrator is ideal but a very low oven works as well. You don’t want them to be completely dry and crispy but they shouldn’t feel damp or wet to the touch. Flip them over after a couple of hours to make sure they dry on both sides.
Store in an airtight container between layers of baking parchment.
The Last Bite: A whole new approach to making desserts through the year by Anna Higham (DK, £22) is out now.