Strawberry Shortbread Sundaes

 

I love ice cream.  I love it so much that when I was child, I used to celebrate my birthdays with sundaes instead of cake.  Now that I’m an adult I celebrate with both.  Frankly, because I can.

For me, no sundae spells summer quite like strawberry.  Which is why I am going to share my strawberry shortbread sundae recipe with you.  The inspiration for it comes from one of my favorite milkshakes in Los Angeles–the strawberry shortcake from MILK on Beverly Boulevard.  It’s creamy and crunchy and bursting with strawberry sweetness.  Think of it as the summer solstice in a bowl.

Ingredients for the strawberry sauce:

400 g strawberries, halved

1/2 cup apple juice

the juice of half a lemon

caster sugar, anywhere from 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup depending on how sweet you like it

 

Method:  Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a low flame.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved then turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Purée with a hand blender.  Pour into a small pitcher and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, chill the sauce in the refrigerator.

 

 

Ingredients for the shortbread:

2 oz caster sugar + a little extra for dusting

4 oz room temperature butter

6 oz plain flour

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

 

Method:  Preheat the oven to gas 5/190C/375F.   In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Beat in the flour a bit at a time until incorporated.  The mixture will be extremely crumbly.  Use your hand to push the dough together in the bowl.  Shape it into a disk.  Cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for half an hour.  After this time, remove it and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  I actually prefer rolling mine out on wax paper.  Roll it so it’s about 1/2″ thick.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Place them on a baking tray.  Sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and bake for about 15 minutes.  Do not let the cookies brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

 

To assemble the sundaes: Crumble part of a shortbread biscuit in a bowl.  Add your ice cream.  I like a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of strawberry, sometimes a bit of strawberry sorbet.  Top with strawberry sauce and the rest of the shortbread crumbles.  Put on the Beatles and enjoy.

 

sundae

 

 

Rhubarb and Strawberry Sunday

 

I love the Home Counties.  For me, they hold great charm.  Village fêtes, farm shops, afternoons sipping cider at the pub, bake sales, plant sales, hedgehog sanctuaries, Sunday lunch, cricket teas, thirsty vicars, vintage cars, and the scent of wood burning fires wherever you go.

Walking past Shardeloes en route to The Red Lion makes me feel like I am deep in the country. The truth, though, is that I am only an hour outside of London.  It’s brilliant and gives me a proper excuse to wear my wellies without looking like a knob.

This weekend in the Garden of Eatin’ (that’s what I call my in-laws’ backyard as it is so full of edible goodness), my daughter explained the difference between bluebells and forget-me-nots to her stuffed friend, Little Bear.  There was also an overabundance of rhubarb. When my mother-in-law asked me to help by cutting it for her, I was happy to be of service.

8 jars of jam and a crumble to be eaten later tonight was our yield.  And to think, there’s still plenty left.

Below is my recipe for today’s rhubarb and strawberry jam.  The strawberries I used were not our own, but they were British (Honi soit qui mal y pense) and came from 2 of the home counties–Kent and Berkshire.

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Ingredients:

3 lbs rhubarb, cut into 1″ pieces

1 lb strawberries, halved

juice of 2 lemons

1 cup apple juice

1.2 kg sugar

1 tbsp butter

 

Method: 

First, place a small plate in the freezer.  This is so you can test your jam later to see if it’s set.

Wash then sterilize your jars by placing them on a tray in a warm oven.

Place the rhubarb, lemon juice, and apple juice in a maslin pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  The reason for this is twofold. 1) Rhubarb takes longer to cook than strawberries.  2) Both rhubarb and strawberries have such low pectin that the addition of apple juice, which naturally has high pectin, will help your jam set.

Turn off the heat and stir in the berries and the sugar.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat back on and bring everything to a boil.

Test for a set by placing a bit of the molten mixture on your frozen plate.  Place the plate back in the freezer.  Remove it after a few minutes.  If the jam crinkles when you push it with your finger, then it has set.  If not, continue cooking for a few more minutes and test again.  Be sure to turn off the heat each time you test for a set.  You do not want to overcook your jam.

Once a desired set has been achieved, stir in the butter.  This will prevent your jam from being scummy.

Let the jam cool for at least 5 minutes before potting it in warm jars.

 

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La Tupina, Sheep’s Cheese, and Cherry Jam

Off the quai in Bordeaux, between St. Michel and Ste. Croix where George is still slaying a dragon, there exists a street called rue Porte de la Monnaie.  At the top of it is an arch and down it a restaurant that is now my favorite in France.  Its name is La Tupina which means the cauldron and how fitting as the place is filled with many of them. george pont de pierre Several Sundays ago I stood under gray skies on the edge of the Garonne taking in the Pont de Pierre and picking wildflowers along the banks to compliment my outfit.  Sure, it was lovely pretending to be Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face and hearing Fred Astaire on a loop in my head, but mostly I was killing time with my husband before a much anticipated lunch. hotel room We didn’t know what to expect.  The reviews we read had been so mixed.  In Fiona Beckett’s 2012 review, she said she detected a slight sense of ennui in Chef Jean-Pierre Xiradakis.  She also described “the kitschness of the place” by saying “If Disney were to recreate south-west French food, it would look like La Tupina.”  Then again, former restaurant critic for The Times, Jonathan Meades, loves the place and has named it his favorite restaurant. When the clock at the local church struck one, my husband and I looked at each other.  Neither of us asked for whom the bell tolled.  We just took each other’s hands and then a chance on lunch at La Tupina. arch After crossing the street and passing under the arch, we saw an old man walking a white cat on a leash.  If black cats are bad luck then this sighting had to be good.  The old man smiled at us and tipped his hat just as my husband opened the restaurant door. outside window From the moment I entered, I saw everything La Tupina had to offer.  Literally.  As the heart of the restaurant is laid bare for all to see.  A giant chimney for smoking, an enormous hearth for roasting, a generous countertop laden with meat and baskets of produce that would be used up by closing time. Many restaurants open up their kitchens to give an element of theatre to their diners, but I always feel it’s a bit contrived.  Not at La Tupina.  Nothing about it evokes the high pressure of a celebrity chef’s kitchen or a televised cooking competition.  On the contrary, the mise en scène there was warm and welcoming.  Like walking into the kitchen of a French friend’s grandmother.  It was charming and not at all like anything I’ve ever experienced at Disneyland. waiter2 Once seated, we ordered glasses of champagne.  They arrived with the silkiest most savory rillettes.  Next we had white asparagus with vinaigrette.  For the main course, my husband had duck breast that had been cooked in the chimney.  I opted for the Noir de Bigorre, which was a plate-sized chop from a black thoroughbred pig whose history in the region can be traced back to Roman times.  This tender fatty pig was served perfectly pink with a single roasted garlic clove on top, salad and mashed potatoes on the side.  It was so delicious I stopped caring about the couple next to us who were making fun of us in French for having ordered a half-bottle of wine instead of a whole.  NB: Just because I’m American and my husband is a plummy Englishman does not mean my schoolgirl French isn’t good enough to know when you’re mocking me.  But like I said, lunch was so good their rudeness didn’t detract.  At least not much.

For pudding I had walnut ice cream.  It was served with walnut liqueur that tasted of the best amontillado sherry.  My husband indulged in a plate of local ewes’ and goats’ milk cheeses.  They were served with strawberry jam.  After the consumption of which, he couldn’t refuse our waitress’ offer of armagnac.  “Higher alcohol content is better for aiding digestion,” she said. wine henry cannele fraises The food at La Tupina could never be called haute cuisine nor nouvelle.  It’s better than that.  It’s classic and nothing about its legacy is as ephemeral as foam.  Dishes of the region are its specialty.  They are tried and true and as old and delicious as the pigs of Roman times.  Lunch at La Tupina is history on a plate.

Jonathan Meades has noted the “ewes’ milk curd with berry jam” among his favorite dishes at La Tupina.  Having tasted it myself, I see why.  It’s the perfect marriage of sweet and savory.  The book he’s presently working on, The Plagiarist in the Kitchen, includes Chef Jean-Pierre Xiradakis’ recipe for Poulet à l’oignon.  I hope it will also include a few more.  Like that jam recipe.  Until then, here is my recipe for cherry jam.  It’s wonderful on toast and also with sheep’s cheese from Southwest France.  Serve it on a Scottish oat cake with a slice of Ossau Iraty and there you have the flavors of the Auld Alliance.  A snack worthy of Mary, Queen of Scots and a marriage far happier than her own.  I hope you enjoy it.

Cherry Jam

Ingredients: 

2 kg cherries (I used 1kg from spain and 1kg from Kent.  I like to mix mine for different flavor notes.)

the juice and zest of 2 lemons

1.3 kg sugar

a candy thermometer or a cold plate in the fridge (I use both)

Method: Wash and dry your cherries.  Then pit them and cut them in half.  Macerate them slightly with a bit of the sugar.  I use a few tablespoons.  Next, transfer them to a large maslin pan. Add your thermometer to the pan.  Cook the cherries over low heat until they are tender.  When they are, stir in the sugar and lemon.  Keep the heat on low and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Once it is, bring the fruit mixture to a rolling boil.  Be sure to stir it so the fruit doesn’t stick and also be careful about bringing the heat up too high.  You don’t want to burn your fruit.  When the mixture thickens and goes glossy or when it is about 102ºC, test the setting point.  Pull your cold plate out of the fridge and put a small teaspoon of jam on it.  Wait a minute before pushing it with your finger.  If it wrinkles like jam, then it’s set.  If it doesn’t, give your mixture a few more minutes of cooking time.  Do not let your mixture pass 104ºC.  This is the setting point of jam.  If you pass this temperature, you’ll end up with glue.  Nobody wants to eat glue.  When your jam is ready, take it off the heat and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.  Finally, pour the jam into sterilized jars and store. 2kg cherries jam fairy jars jam close up toast cheese and jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

I don’t eat rhubarb though I’m sure one day I will.  Kind of like “when I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.”  Or as Holly Golightly said about diamonds,”It’s tacky to wear diamonds before you’re 40; and even that’s risky … they only look good on the really old girls … wrinkles and bones, white hair and diamonds.  I can’t wait.”  My sentiments exactly.   With diamond tiaras and crowns of rhubarb in my stars, I look forward to being a woman of a certain age.

My Great-Grandma Sorensen grew rhubarb outside the back door just off the kitchen of her home in Harlan, Iowa.  She loved it, especially with strawberry.  Each summer, she would stock her pantry with strawberry rhubarb jam and cover her windowsill with strawberry rhubarb pies.  My Great-Grandpa had no objections.  For her, strawberry rhubarb was the most winning combination.  For him, he was the biggest winner.  This year, in memory of her, I’m going to pick up where she left off.

Though the distance between what used to be Great-Grandma Inez’s house in Harlan and my in-laws’ in Buckinghamshire is 4,219 miles, there is one thing about these places that’s exactly the same.  The summer rhubarb.  At the far end of my in-laws’ English garden, past the flowerbeds and my daughter, the Weekend Primrose Fairy, who conjures magic with camellias for wounded ladybugs. . . beyond the bramley apple tree laden with blossom that will (fingers crossed) bring us a bumper crop this September. . . after the greenhouse sheltering sweet peas and cherry tomatoes . . . next to the squash, sorrel, and kale. . . is a row of regal scarlet rhubarb.  This weekend I made several crumbles.  Below is the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it.  Actually, I hope my Great-Grandma would have enjoyed it.

Sorensens

primroses

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garden bramley apple tree

best blossom rhubarb in the garden rhubarb growing

Ingredients:

fruit filling:

2 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces

1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved

1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, chopped

3 tablespoons brown sugar

crumble topping:

1/3 cup Demerara sugar

1 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup flour

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

a pinch of salt

Method:

Preheat oven to Gas 5/375ºF/190ºC.

Place the rhubarb and strawberry pieces in a small ceramic baking dish.  Add the brown sugar and crystallized ginger.  Gently stir to mix.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the butter, flour, oatmeal, sugar, and salt.  Rub with your fingertips until it forms a coarse meal.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake for an hour or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

Serve with creme fraiche, Greek yogurt, ice cream or whatever you like.  And to eat it like my Great-Grandma did, be sure to have it with a game of Scrabble.

windowsill crumble

Strawberry Rosewater Popsicles with Cardamom

strawberry rosewater with cardamom

Today’s recipe was inspired by the exotic flavors of Mashti Malone’s, my favorite ice cream in all of L.A.  In case you don’t know, this little shop on La Brea is owned by two Iranian brothers who pack the magic of the ancient world into their products.  My favorite treat of theirs is the orange blossom ice cream.  It tastes like a flower garden frozen in cream.  One bite and I feel like a fictional Persian princess ready to take a carpet ride with my loyal pet tiger.

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, rinsed, and hulled

1/4 cup rose water

2 tablespoons honey

the contents of 2 cardamom pods

Method:

Purée all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze at least four hours.

Strawberry Nectarine Cream Popsicles with Raspberries

strawberry nectarine cream popsicles

When it’s really hot, I seem to dissolve into my younger self.  Not just in the activities I pursue like playing splashy dinosaur wars in huge puddles with my one year old, but even in the way I dress.  My husband told me, “You look like you’re going to Disney World with your parents in 1986.”  Perhaps my jean shorts cutoffs, pink scoop neck tee, high ballerina bun, no makeup and sneaks don’t exactly scream adult.  Especially when I’m drenched with water and holding a rubber Tyrannosaurus.

summer me

Well, nothing made me happier during the summers of my youth than a quality homemade popsicle.  And I’d say that’s still true now.  Below is today’s recipe.  Tomorrow there’ll be another.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh washed and hulled strawberries

1/2 a banana (for sweetness more than actual banana flavor)

the flesh of one peeled nectarine

1/4 cup honey

2/3 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

a carton of fresh raspberries

Method:

In a blender combine all of the ingredients except for the raspberries.  Those you will divide amongst your popsicle molds.  Pour the mixture into the molds over the raspberries and freeze until solid, approximately 4 hours.  To remove pops from the mold, run them under warm water.  Now enjoy!  And don’t forget your sidewalk chalk and jacks when you meet up for hopscotch with the kids outside.

more strawberry nectarine cream popsicles