Rain is lashing down on this grey and miserable day in June but as far as my taste buds are concerned it’s a gloriously hot summer’s day. I’m eating ripe English strawberries; the epitome of the British summer. Think of English strawberries and you’ll think of strawberries and cream, Wimbledon, Eton mess, strawberry jam.
We may have a love-hate relationship with the British weather, but our climate is perfect for growing soft fruits and this is what makes our strawberries taste so good. Up there with asparagus, they put Britain on the culinary map. They are at their best when they come into season in June and through July, and they tell us summer has arrived – even if the weather doesn’t.
There are a few things you should not do to strawberries, to avoid spoiling their taste. As with mushrooms they should not be washed as they are porous and will absorb the water – so it’s best to buy organic – and they should be served at room temperature, not chilled.
Most often you will see strawberries served with cream and sprinkled with sugar. I personally love them with thick clotted cream, or simply as they are so that I can pick them out of the bag or bowl and bite into their red juiciness. Oranges bring out their flavour, so orange liquor or orange flower water is good to sprinkle over them. As, perhaps surprisingly, is balsamic vinegar. Just a little though. I made the mistake of using too much when serving them to my family once and their screwed-up faces told me what words didn’t need to. They remain unconvinced to this day of how balsamic vinegar brings out the flavour of strawberries. But I have something that may change their minds.
On the Borough Market Tour I attended a week ago we tried some white balsamic vinegar which was deliciously sweet, almost syrupy so. My first thought was that it would be perfect with strawberries and I wasn’t wrong. Use just a dash, along with a sprinkling of sugar, over the strawberries and leave them to marinade until you can’t smell the vinegar anymore. The taste is heavenly.