Strawberries are the most delicious of the soft summer fruits. Crimson, juicy strawberries teamed with cream or ice cream make a deliciously simple dessert that is hard to beat – perfect for picnics. You can also team strawberries with rhubarb – a combination that works surprisingly well, use them with other soft fruits to make a delicious summer pudding (a good way of using up stale bread too), or mix them with meringue and cream to enjoy the classic English dessert known as Eton Mess. You can also try adding a little balsamic vinegar to fresh strawberries, as it really helps to bring out their flavour.
However, if you’re looking for a more unusual twist on the classic strawberries and cream combo, try this imaginative recipe for strawberry risotto. It comes from an inspiring new cookery book Recipes from an Italian Summer (pub. Phaidon £24.95, photographs by Joel Meyerowitz and Andy Sewell) and appears here with permission. The recipes have been collected by the authors of the Italian cookery bible The Silver Spoon and there are 380 to choose from, so you won’t be stuck for ideas for Italian dishes to enjoy during the long summer days. This pink and fruity risotto is suggested as a first course, but you could serve it as a main if you prefer. It would make a great dish if you’re entertaining.
Strawberry Risotto – Recipe
Risotto alle fragole
Ingredients – Serves 4
1 litre/1¾ pints vegetable stock
80 g/3 oz butter
1 onion, finely chopped
320 g/11 oz risotto rice
400 ml/14 fl oz dry white wine
300 g/11 oz strawberries, hulled
250 ml/8 fl oz double cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper
Pour the stock into a pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.
Meanwhile, melt half the butter in another pan. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until it is softened. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until all the grains are coated with melted butter.
Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes, or until the alcohol has evaporated. Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed.
Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, and stirring until each addition has been absorbed. This will take 18 –20 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a few whole strawberries aside for the garnish and mash the remainder in a bowl.
Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the mashed strawberries to the risotto. When it is almost ready, gently stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the reserved whole strawberries.