The time is ripe for indulging in one of the nation’s favourite dessert choices.
Summer means strawberries and the great news is that the recent wet weather doesn’t seem to have dampened this year’s crops.
‘April was so cold it has taken longer for them to ripen, but the recent bit of warmth has really brought them on and crops are absolutely fine,’ says Debbie West, of Titchfield-based N & D West Strawberry Growers.
So now is the time to pick a punnet or two and Debbie says buying from local producers is a great way to ensure optimum freshness. ‘The best thing to do is go to farm shops, farmers’ markets and growers themselves. They’ll be freshly picked and won’t have travelled far.’
Everyone has favourite ways of eating their strawberries – as part of a lavish dessert, with traditional sugar or cream or simply as a healthy snack.
N & D West have started making jam which they sell, along with punnets and plants, from a regular Friday pitch in Fareham town centre through June, as well as the usual farmers’ markets.
Debbie recommends buying the last of the crop for anyone making their own.
‘Those smaller, elongated strawberries are very sweet and great for jam.’
Strawberries remain one of Britain’s favourite fruits, with more than 250 million punnets sold last season, but many people don’t know that there are a lot of varieties.
One is called Sweet Eve, a flavoursome British-bred variety. Sweet Eve have come up with plenty of mouth-watering recipes including the shortbreads printed here. For more information and recipes, visit sweetevestrawberry.co.uk
230g unsalted butter, soft
125g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
250g double cream
1tbsp icing sugar
1tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
200g strawberries, halved
1. To make the shortbread dough, butter and line a baking tray with parchment.
2. Cream the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla extract and then flour, a little at a time, and incorporate until the dough is smooth.
4. Using a little extra flour knead the dough on a flat surface and then roll to a thickness just under 1cm. Cut the shortbread dough out with a 5cm cookie cutter. Place the shortbread biscuit on some baking parchment. Clingfilm the tray and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Prick each of the shortbread biscuit rounds with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Cool on a wire rack.
6. Whip the double cream until it’s stiff, then fold in the icing sugar and the vanilla. Use the whipped cream to sandwich the shortbread biscuits and layer the strawberries on top of the cream.