It was the cream that really turned them into a feast

I
I have just eaten a wonderful bowl of lightly mashed new season strawberries sprinkled liberally with castor sugar and anointed with cream.
So what’s remarkable about that?
Well, for a start I ‘don’t do strawberries’! I’m thoroughly bored of huge tasteless berries from January to December, so I manage to avoid them virtually the whole year, apart from a few weeks in summer. Even then they are rarely worth getting excited about, unless one can find some of the older varieties that haven’t been irrigated on a daily basis, they are scarcely worth bothering about.

Problem is, I can vividly remember what strawberries used to taste like. I remember the agonising wait for them to ripen in the little strawberry patch in our garden. There were never enough to have even a little feast. I remember my friend Bernie and I desperately trying to work out some diversionary tactics to distract Mrs Cody in Tubberloe so she wouldn’t spot us through the back kitchen window as we tried to sneak into her vegetable garden. Of course she caught us and ‘put the run on us’ as the expression went.

Other wonderful memories of summer holidays come flooding back, on my great uncle’s farm in Tipperary Aunt Lil would send us off up the bog lane with little tin ‘ponnies’ to collect wild strawberries to sprinkle over a sheet of tender sponge. The intense flavour of those tiny berries still lingers in my taste memory.

The strawberries I have just eaten were unusually flavoursome, I bought them in Lynda O’Neill’s shop in Leap. There they were sitting beside the till so I succumbed to temptation. They were local strawberries grown commercially by David Busby at Inchinatin near Rosscarbery. 

The strawberries themselves were good but it was the cream that really turned them into a feast, gorgeous thick rich Glenilen cream. This is cream like it used to taste, luxurious artisan double cream produced by Alan and Valerie Kingston on their family farm in Drimoleague. I was blown away by the flavour and texture – this is cream like I remember, rich cream that would whip up in seconds, but so thick that I usually prefer to serve it in a little jug so I can pour it slowly over my berries, rice pudding or pinhead oatmeal porridge.

This is quality cream that has now almost become a forgotten flavour – shame on us in a country that has the capacity to produce the very best dairy products in the world from our lush green grass, yet so often by the time the cream gets on the shelves of our shops its thin and flavourless.

I feel deeply grateful to the Kingstons for giving us an alternative, it costs more because it is better – real food with a story.

Aunt Lil’s Wild Strawberry Sponge
Serves 8

5 eggs, preferably free range
5 ozs (140g) castor sugar
5 ozs (140g) plain white flour
12 fl ozs (350ml) cream
¾ -1 lb (350-450g) wild strawberries or Fraises du Bois
castor sugar

1 Swiss roll tin 9 inches x 12 inches (23cm x 30.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5.

Line the bottom and sides of the Swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper. Brush the paper with melted butter, dust with a little extra flour and castor sugar.

Sieve the flour. Put the eggs and castor sugar into a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Take it off the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool again. (If using an electric mixer, no heat is required). Sieve in about one-third of the flour at a time and fold it into the mixture using a large spatula or metal spoon.

Pour the mixture gently into the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. It is cooked when it feels firm to the touch in the centre. The edges will have shrunk in slightly from the sides of the tin. Lay a piece of greaseproof paper on the work top and sprinkle it evenly with castor sugar. Turn the sponge onto a sheet of greaseproof paper. Remove the tin and greaseproof paper from the bottom of the cake, allow to cool. 

Meanwhile whisk the cold cream until softly whipped. When the cake is cold, spread whipped cream over the top, cover with wild strawberries, sprinkle with castor sugar and serve.

Coeur a la Creme with Summer Fruits

A most exquisite summer pudding. You may use one large mould or individual moulds. In France they are traditionally heart-shaped. The moulds must be well perforated to allow the cheese to drain. Also delicious with a Compote of Blackcurrants or Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote.
Serves 4

225g (8oz) unsalted cream cheese or home made cottage cheese
300ml (½pint) softly whipped thick double cream
2 tablespoons castor sugar
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Accompaniment
Summer berries, frais du bois, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blackberries, redcurrants, blueberries……

300ml (½pint) cream, softly whipped
castor sugar

Garnish
mint leaves

Press the cheese through a fine meshed nylon sieve and blend it gently with the double cream. Stir in the sugar and lightly but thoroughly fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Turn the mixture into muslin lined heart shaped moulds. Stand them on a wide plate, cover with a large plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator overnight to drain. 

Just before serving, turn the moulded cheese hearts out on to white plates. Scatter a selection of summer fruits around the cheese hearts.

Serve with a Strawberry, Raspberry or Blackcurrant Coulis, (see Foolproof Food) softly whipped cream and castor sugar.

Note: If you have not got the traditional heart shaped moulds, one can make Coeur a la Creme in a muslin lined bread basket or even a sieve.

Poached Blackcurrants with Icy Cold Cream

12oz ( 340g) blackcurrants, strings removed
Stock Syrup
2oz (55g) sugar
2floz (55 ml) water

Icy cold cream

To make the stock syrup: dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes and allow to cool. May be stored in the fridge until needed.

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts - this will take about 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with warm shortbread biscuits and icy cold cream.

Shortbread Biscuits

Just three ingredients – 2-4-6, sugar, butter and flour, but so versatile. Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams. Or use to make an instead of pudding by sandwiching together with fruit or berries and sweetened cream. Strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, peaches, nectarines or kiwi. Even bananas would be delicious drizzled with Toffee Sauce.
Makes 25

6 ozs (170g) white flour
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to ¼ inch (7mm) thick. Cut into rounds with a 2½ inch (6cm) cutter or into heart shapes. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content they burn easily. They should be a pale golden colour - darker will be more bitter.

Strawberry Shortbreads
Makes 8-10

Ingredients as above
1lb (450g) fresh strawberries
whipped cream, sweetened

Stamp the shortbread dough into 2½ inch (6cm) rounds or heart-shapes.
Bake as above

When cool, sandwich two biscuits together with sliced strawberries and sweetened cream.
Dust with icing sugar and decorate with whole strawberries and a sprig of sweet cicely.
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Raspberry, Nectarine and Melon Salad
Serves 6

2 ripe nectarines or peaches
4-6 oz (110-170 g) fresh raspberries
½ Ogen melon or 2 bananas
Castor sugar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the peaches into ¼ inch (5 mm) thick slices (peel the peaches first if using). Put into a bowl with the raspberries. Scoop the melon flesh into balls or ½ inch (1 cm) dice and add a good sprinkling of castor sugar and the juice of 1 or 2 lemons. If using bananas slice and add to the salad just before serving. A little freshly chopped mint would be delicious too.

Variations:
Raspberry, Nectarine, Melon and Blueberry Salad
Add 4ozs of fresh blueberries to the above recipe

Raspberry, Nectarine and Blueberry Salad
Omit melon and add 8ozs of blueberries instead

Summer Fruit Jelly with Sweet Geranium Cream

Makes 9-10 ramekins
450g (1lb) summer fruit eg.
225g (2lb) fresh raspberries
110g (3lb) fraises du bois or tiny strawberries
110g (3lb) blueberries or blackcurrants 

Syrup
225ml (8fl oz) water
225g (8oz) sugar
4 sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 rounded teaspoons gelatine
3 tablespoons water

Sweet Geranium Cream

4-5 sweet geranium leaves approx.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
150ml (6fl oz) cream
sugar to taste, optional

ramekins, 255-285ml (9-10fl oz) capacity

Put the cold water, sugar and sweet geranium leaves into a stainless steel saucepan, bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, allow to cool, add freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Brush the moulds lightly with non-scented vegetable oil. Alternatively line the moulds with cling film. Sponge the gelatine in two tablespoons of water, then place the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Remove the sweet geranium leaves from the syrup, pour the syrup onto the gelatine and then add the fruit, stir gently. Fill into the lined moulds. Put into the fridge and leave to set for 3-4 hours.

Meanwhile make the sweet geranium cream.

Crush the leaves in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, add the cream and stir, (the lemon juice will thicken the cream, if the cream becomes too thick add a little water.)

Taste, if too bitter add a little sugar, remember the sauce should be tart.

To assemble:

Spread a little sweet geranium cream onto a white plate, turn out a jelly and place in the centre. Place 3-5 tiny sweet geranium leaves on the cream. Decorate with a few perfect raspberries, serve chilled.

Raspberry Jelly with Mint
Substitute raspberries for the mixture of summer fruit, add a teaspoon of framboises liqueur to the syrup if available. Substitute mint for sweet geranium in both the syrup and cream.

Loganberreis are exquisite used in the same way.

Strawberry and redcurrant tart

Serves 6
Shortcrust pastry:

4 ozs (110g) flour
3 ozs (85g) butter
1 dessertsp. icing sugar
pinch of salt
1 small egg, preferably free range, beaten

7 inch (18cm) flan ring or tart tin with removable base

Filling

12-15 ozs (340-450g) Strawberries,(eg. El Santa), (Raspberries, Loganberries, Blueberries, Blackberries or a mixture could also be used.)

4-6 tablesp. redcurrant jelly

Decoration:

3 pint (150ml) cream, whipped
fresh mint or lemon balm leaves

Make the shortcrust pastry. Line the flan ring and decorate the edges. Line the pastry with kitchen paper and fill with dried beans. Bake blind in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 20-25 minutes.

Remove paper and beans, paint the base of the tart with a little beaten egg and replace in the oven until completely cooked - 5-8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

To finish: Warm the redcurrant jelly. Paint the base of the tart with the jelly and arrange the strawberries on top, either whole or in slices. Paint the fruit so that it all looks beautifully shiny. The jelly not only glazes the fruit but also adds a delicious bitter-sweet flavour.

Decorate with tiny rosettes of cream and mint or lemon balm leaves.

Note: This tart shell can be used for many other types of fruit, eg. kiwi fruit, peeled and pipped grapes, bananas, plums, peaches or nectarines. Brush with apricot glaze if yellow or green fruit is used.

Raspberry and Rose Blossom Fool

Serves 8
Strawberries can also be substituted here.

1lb (450g) fresh raspberries
castor sugar
½ pint (300ml) softly whipped cream
¼ pint (150ml) natural yoghurt
1 -2 teaspoons rose blossom water
a few extra raspberries
Lady Finger (Boudoir) biscuits, optional

Whizz the raspberries in a food processor with the sugar and rose blossom water. Sieve if the pips bother you – I usually do.

Fold in most of the cream and yoghurt. Taste and add a little more sugar, and cream or yoghurt if necessary. The texture should be soft, like barely whipped cream.

Serve in chilled glasses with a few fresh raspberries and rose petals scattered over the top.

Foolproof Food

Fruit Coulis

Delicious with ice-cream
Raspberry Coulis
8 ozs (225 g) Raspberries
3-6 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons water
Lemon juice - optional

Make a syrup with sugar and water, cool and add to the raspberries. Liquidise and sieve, taste, sharpen with lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.

Strawberry Coulis

Serves 8
14 ozs (400 g) Strawberries
2 ozs (55 g) icing sugar
Lemon juice

Clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.
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Hot Tips

Glenilen make double cream, clotted cream, country butter, cheesecake, yogurt with fruit compote in a glass, all from the milk of their own Friesian dairy herd, they are also introducing some Jersey cows to the herd to increase the butter fat. Valerie says the name comes from the River Ilen which runs through the farm, they started making these delicious value-added products to enable them to stay farming viably on their own land. 

Glenilen products are available from the following outlets in the Cork area – O’Herlihy’s on Wellington Road, Food Fair in Douglas, O’Donovans in Wilton, O’Driscolls in Ballinglough and Super-Valu in Carrigaline and Midleton. www.glenilen.com  Tel. 028-31179

Summer Fruit - Raspberries, boysenberries, loganberries, tayberries are now coming into season also so plan to enjoy them as often as possible during the true berry season.

David Busby, Rosscarbery 023-38140. John Howard, Sunnyside Fruit Farm, Rathcormac, 025-36253

Cork Summer Show – June 18/19 Cork Showgrounds, Ballintemple
Farmers Market, Traditional Crafts Hall and much, much more….

Pasture to Plate – The Art of Cheesemaking – Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont, USA 5-7 September.
For budding cheese makers, enthusiasts and food lovers – an in depth introduction to the world of artisan cheese – 3 day course – for details contact Hilary Sunderland or Caitlin Fay at 00 82 985 8498

100% Health Weekend with Patrick Holford June 25 & 26, 9.30-5.30
Transform your diet, your health, your life! At the Cultivate Sustainable Living Centre, 15-19 Essex St West, Temple Bar, Dublin 8. Details from 01-6745773 or john@sustainable.ie

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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