It's berry time - and our Head Chef has some delicious creations and cunning tips up his sleeves for lovers of all things strawberry
June always sees Wisley kitchens switch into berry mode but this year has a special impetus thanks to the Queen’s Birthday celebrations; and on 23 June, we’ll be providing a range of strawberry treats for RHS Garden Wisley visitors to sample alongside fresh fruits from the Wisley Strawberry Collection and trials. Drop by between 11am and 3pm to taste dishes such as strawberry cheesecake, strawberry and elderflower jelly, plus our delicious jams and compotes.
A taste of summer
In the Wisley kitchens we are always trying to make the most of home-grown produce. Sometimes this simply means serving ingredients at their prime, such as the pots of fresh Wisley strawberries with clotted cream you can find in Taste of Wisley cafés, but often it is about preserving and extending the produce, so we can all enjoy it for longer.
Any fresh strawberries that are softening or don’t look their best, for example, go straight into jam, compote, or into a purée, ready to make the scrumptious strawberry cheesecake we have on the menu at the moment.
Smooth and delicious
Strawberry purée is very easy to make: simply pulse your strawberries in a food processor, then put them through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. We mix the purée with gelatine, and fold that mixture into a mascarpone cream filling, adding chunks of fresh strawberry to give the cheesecake a lovely texture.
Top tip for a seasonal tipple
Another good idea is to freeze the purée in ice cube trays and store them ready to drop into your favourite summer fizz – the strawberry purée will chill the drink at the same time as turning it into a cocktail!
We’ve just added berry pavlova to our afternoon tea menu in the Dining Room at Wisley. The trick with recipes such as this is to keep everything chilled and add the berries only at the very last minute before serving. Strawberries will deteriorate rapidly in a warm room, as you will know if you’ve tried to serve them on summer buffet table.
I like to give the strawberries a light spray with sugar syrup to keep them looking fresh – you can also flavour sugar syrup with elderflower cordial and dip the strawberries into it to add another taste dimension.
For something less sweet, try topping a split scone with cream cheese, fresh strawberries and a dash of black pepper – it’s a great modern teatime treat easy to enjoy at home, whether you’ve managed to grow your own strawberries or not.