I have been waiting expectantly for the season’s first strawberries. Now they’re here and although I’m delighted I can now savour a favourite fruit, I find the first berries are often a little tangy and are best enjoyed in smoothies, sauces and bakes. It’s summer when they are at their peak — nature’s healthy nibbles.
Firm berries should be stored at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop. When fully ripe, store in a single layer in a paper towel-lined shallow container — covered — in the fridge.
Asparagus is popping up all over and the two — asparagus and strawberries — are an excellent combo in salads (try adding some crisp bacon too) and drizzled with Hollandaise or a good vinaigrette.
Store asparagus wrapped in damp paper towels in the fridge. If the base of the asparagus stems are tough, peel with a vegetable knife before use. Many cooks believe that thin spears are more tender than thick ones. However, tenderness is usually related to colour — the greener or purpler or whiter the better.
Spring tangelos and rhubarb are another heavenly match. Poach rhubarb in tangelo juice adding tangelo segments at the end. It's delicious served with whipped cream or ice cream or as a base for a crumble. Finely grated or julienned tangelo rind also adds exotic flavour to icings and sauces.
STRAWBERRY GIN ICE CREAM
If using a metal loaf pan, line it with baking paper.
2 cups washed, hulled and quartered strawberries
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup gin
1.5 litres vanilla ice cream
Place the strawberries in a saucepan with the caster sugar and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes, until softened.
Purée with a hand-held blender, until smooth. Stir in the gin. Cool.
Allow the ice cream to soften slightly.
Spoon 1/3 of the ice cream evenly over the base of a 1.5litre loaf pan. Pat down with the back of the spoon. Drizzle with 1/4 of the cold purée. Repeat the layers twice. Using a chopstick, swirl the coulis through the ice cream. Cover and freeze overnight.
Serve in slices or scoops together with the remaining purée and a few fresh strawberries — if preferred. Serves 8.
ASPARAGUS WITH GOAT'S CHEESE DRESSING
16 spears asparagus, trimmed
4 long sprigs rosemary
2 rashers streaky bacon, halved lengthwise
spray olive oil
Goat's Cheese Dressing: 25g soft goat's cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Blanch the asparagus in boiling water, until bright green. Drain and refresh in icy water.
Take 4 asparagus spears together with a rosemary sprig. Wrap with a rasher of bacon. Repeat with the remaining asparagus, rosemary and bacon.
Heat an oiled, ridged frying pan, until very hot. Add the wrapped asparagus. Pan-fry on all sides, until the bacon is cooked.
To make the dressing, crumble the cheese into a bowl. Whisk in the remaining ingredients to produce a smooth dressing. Drizzle over the asparagus and serve. Serves 4.
TANGELO, AVO & WATERCRESS SALAD
Finely sliced red cabbage adds colour to this salad. I used the finely serrated edge of a flexible bread knife to sliver the cabbage.
Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
1 large garlic clove, diced
1/4 cup tangelo juice
2 teaspoons each: maple syrup, chilli paste
pinch five-spice powder
Salad: 2-3 tangelos
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
3 cups (50g) watercress sprigs
1 large spring onion, thinly sliced
1 large avocado, stoned, peeled and sliced
To make the dressing, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook on low heat, until softened. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the tangelo juice, maple syrup, chilli paste and five-spice powder in a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining oil. Add the shallot and garlic mixture.
Peel and segment the tangelos.
Combine the cabbage, watercress, spring onion and tangelo segments and place on a platter. Just before serving, top with the avocado and drizzle with a little of the dressing. Serves 4