Monday, 27 February 2017
Strawberry Meals Forever
Fanny Cradock is always inspired by the seasons as to what to whip up for us to enjoy. She's just a little bit ahead of herself here though as she urges us to prepare for splendid days of Summer. She's planted some lovely strawberry plants, carefully selected for both flavour and flower, in every nook and cranny of her, she would claim, modest garden, and is keen to make the most of them while the season is here. I am all for pretending that it is already summery strawberry season. We all need a little sunshine in our life don't we?
I am not using home-grown strawberries. Even it were the correct season, I have nowhere to grow them. No nooks or crannies. Fanny would be sad for me. She does enter, a little unusually I feel, into a prayer for those who have home-growing abilities though. Fanny's prayer is for their health. She prays that they are using all natural compost in their gardens, and are totally bereft of artificial sprays and fertilisers, so that at the very least the little strawberries arrive at their doors safe and pure. We would all say Amen to that.
Fanny considers a range of special treats that would be enhanced by chemical-free strawberries. Perhaps a Strawberry and Cream Choux Paste Gateaux is what you are dreaming of? Maybe you'd prefer Choux Paste Strawberry Swans? Possibly a Strawberry Mille Feuille is more your thing? Or a simple Sponge Sandwich with Strawberries? Whichever it is, Fanny rustles them all up. She claims they are perfect if you want to make something gorgeous even if you can't cook. Awkward. Presumably they are good too, even if you can. They all involve simply filling the chosen sponge or pastry with strawberries and cream. Sometimes custard too. My prayers have been answered.
I'm in the mood for Strawberry Shortbread. Fanny gives it the usual French translation to fancy it up - Gâteau Biscuit Anglais aux Fraises Chantilly - but when you get down to it, it's shortbread, strawberries and cream. Fanny makes her shortbread with butter, sugar, self-raising flour (which she is sure will horrify the Scots, but she insists on using it for everything) and also rice flour. She creams the butter and sugar together, folds in the flours and presses them into suitably buttered and floured moulds for baking. Simple. A moderate oven will suffice.
While one shortbread circle is cooling, Fanny suggests cutting the other in half ready for presentation. When both are fully cool, she piles in sliced, hulled and heavenly strawberries, pops the two halves on top as 'wings' or a lid, and adds generous amounts of piped cream. I'm not sure where this traditional display originates, but it does make a very pleasing offering. The shortbread is crumbly and buttery. The strawberries sweet and juicy. The cream light and fluffy. Next time I need a little sunshine in my days, this will be my go-to brightener. Let's pray for all those that are burdened by chemically treated fruits while we are feeling so worthy.