Do you take summer berries for granted? I certainly never do. In the hot country I come from they were a luxury item, associated with cool weather and European holidays. I was 20 when I tried my first fresh raspberry.
When we moved to a small garden flat in Tel Aviv, I had grand designs. I found a 1970s English gardening book and purchased a raspberry plant. On a bright winter day, with dreams of ruby fruits in iced bowls come summer, I planted it in the coolest corner of the plot.
The spring showed some promise and little leaves appeared, but by June I realised there was a problem: droopy branches, browning leaves, no buds. The pictures in the gardening book did not look like this. I frantically tried to find a solution. By July, I was bringing home two kilograms of ice every day to place at the plant’s base (a trick I’d read about) but rather than cool the ground, the ice cubes melted the moment they hit the hot soil. I still had a glimmer of hope, but as August temperatures in Tel Aviv hit 40C I knew I had to let it go, along with my dreams of bright red desserts. I let the plant dry out in the hot Israeli sun and turned my attention to a fig tree I got as a consolation prize from my wife.
Now, after 12 years in Europe, I miss the hot weather produce I always took for granted — sweet figs, juicy grapes — as well as the heat of the sun on my back, and the sea. And yet, I still get terribly excited at this time of year, when the first berries come to market — flavourful, plentiful, glistening and bloody beautiful. A real luxury.
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Frozen meringue with strawberry and lime
Is this a bit retro? Maybe, but some things should never go out of fashion. This dessert is lighter than light, made mostly of air held together by a delicate, freshly flavoured foam. Bring this one out at the end of a big meal and when everyone says, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly”, you’ll soon discover that, actually, they can. You must make it ahead, as it takes time to set, but, once made, you can keep it in the freezer for up to a month, and as long as it is covered it will keep well. The strawberries also benefit from sitting in their marinade for at least a few hours. We used a loaf tin here — but it looks great in a round tin as well.
|For the frozen meringue:|
|3||egg whites (about 120g)|
|Zest of 2 limes|
|For the macerated strawberries:|
|Juice of 1 lime|
|Flesh of 1 lime|
|1 tbs||rose water|
|2 tbs||gin or vodka|
- You will need to start the day before. Line a loaf tin with a large piece of clingfilm and allow some overhang to ease the lifting-out later. You can use a sheet of greaseproof paper if you prefer, and a silicone mould will not require any lining at all.
- Whisk the egg whites with the sugar until they form really stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream with the lime zest into a soft whipped cream and then fold both mixes together. Transfer to your pre-lined tin, cover the top with the excess overhang and place in the coldest part of the freezer for at least 10 hours.
- You can macerate the strawberries a day in advance if you wish, or a few hours before serving. Wash them, remove the green stalks and cut into quarters, mix with all the macerating ingredients and cover.
- Once you are ready to serve (and you will need to do this at the last minute), remove the tin from the freezer, lift the covering and pull the frozen meringue out. Now place it on a plate, peel off the lining and top with the strawberries. Serve the remaining liquid on the side, so people can add as much as they want.
Raspberry jellies with yoghurt cream
Jellies are not just for kids and these are especially designed for grown-ups — quite tart and really fresh. They are very loosely set, and the fruit inside gives them bite and keeps them juicy. We top them with a slightly flavoured yoghurt but you can also use fresh cream, or serve as they are if you want to keep them dairy-free.
Just a small note on gelatin: the grade and setting vary widely from one manufacturer to another; we like a very light set and the type we use is for one sheet for every 120ml of liquid. That said, if you choose to make a large bowl rather than individual portions, you are best going by a ratio of one leaf for every 100ml of liquid, as it is harder to set a large volume.
This recipe doesn’t yield a huge amount of jelly but it is richer than you expect and really is enough as a dessert for four.
Makes four x 60g portions
|For the jelly:|
|2||gelatin leaves (3.5g) (or see manufacturer’s instructions)|
|Juice of 1 orange|
|Juice of 1 lemon|
|For the yoghurt cream:|
|Zest of ½ orange|
|Zest of ½ lemon|
|Extra fresh raspberries|
- Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water till they soften. Place all the other ingredients for the jelly in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Use the back of a spoon to smash the raspberries until they break up, skim the foam off the top of the liquid and remove from the heat.
- Lift the gelatin leaves out of the water and add to the raspberry liquid, mix well and transfer to four serving glasses. Set in the fridge for at least three hours.
- Mix all the yoghurt ingredients together until smooth. Serve the jelly topped with some of the yoghurt cream and a handful of fresh raspberries.
Chocolate cloud cake with berries
Chocolate and fruit is a tricky area, but careful judgment can yield delicious results. Be picky about the chocolate you use here, as you’ll need the slight acidity and fruity notes of a good-quality bitter chocolate to echo and compeiment the unique flavour and astringent edge of the currants. It’ll be worth it, we promise.
To fill a seven-inch cake tin
|For the chocolate cloud sponge:|
|130g||dark brown sugar|
|1 tsp||ground cinnamon|
|60g||bitter chocolate, chopped into small flecks|
|For the filling and topping:|
|1 stick of||cinnamon|
|400g||red- and blackcurrants (either colour or a mix)|
- To make the filling, set a frying pan on the hob on a high heat, sprinkle in the sugar and stir until it has dissolved and turned to a light caramel. Add the fruit and the cinnamon stick and mix — don’t worry if the sugar seizes a little around the fruit, just continue stirring until it dissolves again. Then remove from the heat and allow to rest while you make the sponge.
- Heat your oven to 170C. Prepare your tin by lining it with a large round of baking paper that you push down into the tin, allowing for a rim at least 2cm higher than the sides of the tin. Whisk the egg whites with 80g of the sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining cake ingredients until they are well combined.
- Fold the two mixes together, trying to keep as much air in the mix as possible.
- Spoon half the cake mix into the paper casing, sprinkle with 3 tbs of the cooked fruit and top with the rest of the chocolate mix. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the cake in the oven and allow to bake for another 10-14 minutes; it should feel like touching a cloud — it will have a little bounce but still be soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. It will sink a little in the centre but that is part of its charm — and where you put the rest of the fruit, along with some of the cooking liquid, before serving. Alternatively, serve the liquid as a fruit compote on the side.
- You can use any remaining liquid from cooking the currants to make our summer cocktail (see below).
Fruit and custard tarts
You can look down on custard powder but we don’t, and every home baker worth their salt (or sugar) knows it’s a handy little number to have in the kitchen. Add a bit to shortbread or cake mixes for a touch of childhood-flavoured magic, or make this excellent tart filling.
The recipe below for the pastry can make two tarts, but making half the amount just seems a waste and I always think that recipes with just half an egg are extremely annoying. Make the full amount, split it into two and freeze half, or bake two tarts — you can never have enough.
To fill a long, thin, loose-bottomed tart case (or you can bake in a round eight-inch tart tin if you prefer)
|For the sweet pastry, enough for two tarts:|
|Zest of 1 lemon|
|For the filling:|
|3 tbs||custard powder|
|1 tbs||peach schnapps or brandy|
|Fruit with some sharpness: peaches, apricots, rhubarb, plums and raspberries all work. |
Here, I used 11 apricots for the whole one, and three peaches, a few apricots and some blackberries for the mixed-fruit one
|A little sugar for sprinkling|
To make the pastry
- Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough — you can use a mixer with a paddle attachment, or a food processor if you wish, but working it by hand will do just as well. Wrap it in some clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least half an hour before rolling out to line the tin. Use a little flour when rolling and make sure to push the pastry into the corners of the tart tin.
- Preheat your oven to 170C fan. There is no need to blind bake this tart, as the time it takes to bake the filling will be enough to crisp up the pastry.
- To make the filling, place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz to make a smooth cream. Then spread the filling on the base of the tart — it should fill to just under half.
- Now arrange the fruit in a way you like. You can halve the apricots, and quarter or segment the peaches and place them raw in the tin, standing up like little soldiers. Then sprinkle the fruit with a little bit of sugar and place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then rotate the tin and bake for a further 15 minutes; the filling should become slightly golden and firm up. Take out of the oven and cool in the tin before removing and slicing.
To make a jug of cocktail to serve at any occasion
|120ml||of juice from cooking currants (see the recipe for currant filling)|
|120ml||gin (or more if you are so inclined)|
|½||cucumber, peeled into ribbons with a hand peeler|
|500ml||sparkling or tonic water|
|8||strawberries, cut into halves|
|3-4||sprigs of mint|
- Mix everything together and add loads of ice.
- Adjust the alcohol to your preferred level
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Photographs: Patricia Niven