When the weather is this nice, I lose all the desire I ever had to spend time in the kitchen. We subsist
on frequent picnics - often in one of Leiden 's excellent speeltuinen (www.speeltuinenleiden.nl) -
and dinners made very rapidly and/or in advance, and beer in the fridge becomes an essential.
This culinary inertia deserts me, however, when I go to the market on Saturday and Wednesday -
or even at our local market on a Thursday in the Stevenshof; we are really spoiled for choice here - and see all that lovely FRUIT on sale at the moment. There are strawberries, cherries, plums (soon), redcurrants and even those eye-wateringly expensive little boxes of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. I just can't resist all the seasonal bounty.
So this page has some of my summer favourite soft fruit recipes, and is rather long as a result! They
are all genuinely easy and guaranteed successes, and the summer pud and ice-cream are great for making with children. Jam, in contrast, is best done in the evening with some good music on and a glass of wine to hand, since hot sugar syrup doesn't combine so well with children. They love eating
SUMMER PUDDING (preparation 20mins, plus chilling time)
1kg red(ish - I include blue/blackberries here!) fruit of your choice; type and exact quantity are
Sugar - a quarter to a third of the fruit's weight
White sliced bread, with the crusts cut off - about seven or eight slices
- Mix the fruit with the sugar and leave to stand for a while, to bring out the juice.
- Meanwhile, line a pudding basin (mine's a three-pint -1.6l - one) with the white bread.
Pour on the fruit/sugar mixture and give the pudding a lid of more white bread, squidging it
down a bit on to the fruit so that it soaks up the juice. Put a plate on top with a can of tomatoes on it to weight it down; chill for at least two hours (more is better) and turn out on to a plate
- est with cream.
Loganberries and wild blackberries are better slightly stewed beforehand to soften them.
STRAWBERRY ICECREAM (about 40mins in all, including preparing fruit)
Two versions here, depending on whether you want to spend your time whipping cream or stirring
a custard. And, why not freeze some extra strawberry puree, so that you can enjoy this ice-cream in the depths of winter as well?
General ice-cream making tips
An ice-cream maker is not necessary; although ice-cream is lighter and even more delectable if it's beaten every hour or so while it freezes, a) you can do this by hand and b) it's delicious even if it's
not been beaten. The strawberry quantities for both recipes are approximate because if you have a
bit less (or more) fruit, it really doesn't matter.
Simple strawberry ice
1 tin condensed milk (that astonishingly sweet and sticky stuff; e.g. Fries Meisje brand)
300ml cream (i.e. slagroom ; the cheap UHT stuff works fine, but make sure you get proper cream
and not 'room culinair' which is additives and cornflour, ugh .)
- Wash , hull and purée the strawberries.
- Mix the cream with the condensed milk and beat as stiff as you can.
- Fold in the strawberry puree. Freeze.
Slightly less simple strawberry ice
130g sugar (caster sugar, fijne kristalsuiker , works best)
3 egg yolks
- Purée the strawberries as above.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar (by hand is fine) in a large mixing bowl until they are
pale and heading towards fluffy.
- Boil the cream in a large pan. When it's boiled, pour it on to the yolks and sugar, and mix thoroughly.
- Wash out the pan, then pour the mixture back in and re-heat it until it just boils, when it
will thicken very slightly. Don't let it boil at all if you can help it, or it might curdle - fill a washbasin with cold water beforehand and dunk the pan in, stirring madly, if it shows signs
- Pour the custard back into the mixing bowl (which you've washed out) and fold in the strawberry purée. Allow it to cool a bit and freeze.
If you're increasing the quantities, a rule of thumb for the custard is about one egg yolk per 100ml cream.
The basic jam method is very simple: mix the fruit (or fruit syrup, for a jelly) with sugar, heat it up slowly (to give the sugar time to dissolve) and then boil the hell out of it until it's ready, which will
be after at least fifteen minutes at a galloping boil. 'Ready' is when the jam forms a skin (as explained below), or alternatively when the temperature reaches 105 ° C ('jam') on your cooking thermometer,
if you have one.
Pectin sugar (jam sugar, geleisuiker ) is the jam-maker's friend, as it almost guarantees that your
jam will set; most supermarkets here stock it. If your jam ends up irritatingly liquid despite this, a guaranteed (although slightly time-consuming) remedy is simply to boil it up again; you end up
with less jam but it will at least be set.
Any old glass jar (well-washed) with a screw-top lid will do fine to hold your jam.
Testing jam: Chill a plate in the fridge before you start. Then to test the jam, put a drop on the plate.
If it makes a skin which wrinkles when you touch it, it's right.
Use a ratio of 4:5 jam sugar/fruit (I find 1:1 a bit too sweet), and the juice of one lemon per kilo fruit. Don't bother puréeing the strawberries unless you prefer lump-free jam.
Rinse the fruit in a colander but don't worry about taking it off the stalks (although you can if you
like). Bring the fruit to the boil in a large pan with half a pint (270ml) of water per pound (450g) of fruit. Simmer gently for about 20mins, until the fruit is nice and mushy.
Strain it through cooking muslin; stretch the muslin over the top of the pan and pour on the fruit. Leave it to drip for as long as you can wait; strictly speaking 3 or 4 hours, but if I'm doing this in
one evening I generally give it about half an hour and then squeeze it a bit to speed things up. This should be avoided by purists, as it makes the jelly ever so slightly cloudy, but it works for me.
Add sugar in the ratio of a pound (450g) of sugar to a pint (560ml) of juice. Boil it up.