Summer strawberries

Summer strawberries

By
From
Lagom
Photographer
Yuki Sugiura

Strawberries are an essential part of the Swedish summer, making their premiere around the time of Midsummer’s Eve in late June. This originally pagan holiday to honour the summer solstice is second only to Christmas in terms of festive importance. At both times of year, food and feasting are central. Midsummer would not be quite the same without a strawberry cake and cup of coffee after lunch to soak up all the herring, snaps and beer.

Swedish strawberries are smaller than many imported varieties, very juicy and super-sweet – I cannot sing their praises enough. They are sold everywhere – we frequently stop off on the way out to the countryside to pick up a punnet or two from a roadside stall. Most prized are smultron – wild strawberries – which look like cute, mini strawberries but have a much more concentrated, intense and heady flavour.

Swedish strawberries have a relatively short season, but we make the most of it by gorging on them throughout the summer, most often served simply, perhaps with a dollop of cream or scoop of ice cream. However, we also work them into lots of our desserts and preserves to celebrate their brief but impactful appearance.

“Sommaren är kort det mesta regnar bort” [“Summer is short, most of it rains away”] Song by Tomas Ledin

A strawberry cake for Midsummer’s Eve

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the cake

Quantity Ingredient
butter, for greasing
4 large eggs
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder or paste
100g plain flour
40g cornflour or potato flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the syrup

Quantity Ingredient
75g caster sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 bunch mint, roughly chopped

For the filling & decoration

Quantity Ingredient
400g strawberries
2 tablespoons caster sugar
250ml double or whipping cream
dash vanilla extract, powder or paste
1 small bunch mint, leaves picked, (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C and move a shelf to the bottom. Grease and line a 24-cm round, loose-bottom cake tin. To make the cake, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla.
  2. Mix the flours and baking powder in a small bowl, then fold into the egg mixture, carefully incorporating all the ingredients. Pour into the prepared tin and bake on the bottom shelf for 30 minutes, until risen, golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool a little before releasing from the tin, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Make the syrup by combining the sugar, lemon juice, zest, mint and 200ml water in a small saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool completely before straining into a jug.
  4. For the filling and decoration, hull half the strawberries and chop. Place in a bowl with the sugar and mash together with a fork to form a rough fresh jam. Halve the remaining strawberries, keeping their stalks on. Whip the cream quite loosely – take care not to overwhip! Stir through the vanilla.
  5. Split the cooled cake in half through the middle. I like to trace the outline with a knife, all the way around the side, then use a long piece of strong thread to cut through the cake.
  6. To assemble, drizzle the bottom layer of cake with half the syrup. Spread with the strawberry jam and half the whipped cream. Top with the remaining cake layer and drizzle this with more syrup. Decorate with the last of the cream, the halved strawberries and mint sprigs, if desired.

Strawberry ice cream with crème fraîche & rosewater

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
500g strawberries, hulled
200g caster sugar
few drops rosewater
500ml full-fat creme fraiche
chopped pistachios, (optional), to serve

Method

  1. Blitz the strawberries and sugar in a food processor to make a coulis, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Add a couple of drops of rosewater, tasting to make sure the rose does not overpower the strawberry flavour.
  2. Combine two-thirds of the coulis with the crème fraîche, mixing well, then churn in an ice-cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Swirl the remaining coulis through the ice cream right before freezing. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, tip into a freezerproof tub and freeze for 1 hour. Mix thoroughly to break up the ice crystals, then return to the freezer for another hour. Repeat this process a further 2–3 times. Swirl the coulis through the ice cream before the final freezing stage.
  3. Serve sprinkled with pistachios, if desired, or scooped into cones.

Strawberry compote with black pepper

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
500g strawberries, hulled and quartered
50g caster sugar
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a simmer and let bubble for 10 minutes until the strawberries start to break down. Transfer to a large sterilized jar and allow to cool completely before sealing and refrigerating. The compote will keep in the fridge for 10 days.
  2. Serve with crusty, buttered bread, swirled through Greek yogurt, or as an ice-cream topper.

Note: rosewater and strawberries

  • For the strawberry ice cream, you may need to use up to 1 tablespoon rosewater depending on the strength. If your strawberries are very sweet, add a little lemon juice or if they are more tart, you may want to add a little extra sugar.
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