Berried treasures: Mark Hix makes the most of British berry season - Features - Food + Drink - The Independent

Berried treasures: Mark Hix makes the most of British berry season

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These home-grown fruits can brighten up traditional roasts and bring a splash of summer to desserts

We can really brighten up our desserts now the British berry season has begun. Planning pudding for a dinner all of a sudden becomes less of a chore – we can add some natural colour to the bowls. And berries or soft fruits also liven up mains, of course.

 

Roast rack of lamb with redcurrants

Serves 4-6

You can use either fresh or frozen fruit to create this fresh version of redcurrant sauce to go with your Sunday roast.

2 racks of lamb, French trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
2tsp flour
1tsp tomato purée
100ml red wine
250ml beef stock
1tsp redcurrant jelly
30-40g redcurrants

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. First, make the sauce: melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the flour and tomato purée, season and stir over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the red wine, stirring to avoid lumps forming, and then add the beef stock and redcurrant jelly. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes, giving an occasional whisk, until the sauce has reduced by about two-thirds and thickened.

Heat a roasting tray in the oven with a little oil for about 10-12 minutes. Season the lamb and place them in the tray with the fat side down and roast for about 10 minutes, turn them over and roast for a further 10-12 minutes, keeping them nice and pink. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5-6 minutes. To serve, add the redcurrants to the sauce and simmer for a minute and re-season if necessary. To serve, slice the lamb between the bones and arrange on warm plates; spoon the sauce over and around.

 

Raspberry coupe

Serves 4

A coupe is a great summery dish to serve at a lunch party in the garden. You can create your own bespoke version by adding nuts, varying the ice-cream, serving mascarpone instead of cream, etc. I've given a recipe here for tuile biscuits, but you could also use a suitable off-the-shelf ice-cream biscuit.

200g raspberries
120ml double cream
30g caster sugar
4 large or 8 small scoops of good-quality vanilla ice-cream

Blend a third of the raspberries in a liquidiser until smooth. Whip the cream with the sugar until fairly stiff. To serve, spoon a little of the raspberry purée in the base of a coupe-type glass, then spoon some whipped cream followed by a ball of ice-cream. Spoon on more purée, saving 1-2tbsp for the biscuits below, scatter the raspberries and place a biscuit on top.

 

Tuile biscuits

Makes 8-10

These are perfect to serve with ice-cream and sorbets. Start by making a circular template from an old plastic container(an ice-cream box lid, for instance). It needs to be roughly the size of a cereal bowl – it's handy if you leave a thumb-sized piece at the end to hold on to.Cut out a hole in the centre to about 1cm from the edge, and you have a template over which to spread the mix. Keep it in a safe place with your pastry cutters for next time.

90g icing sugar
90g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg white
A couple of drops of good-quality vanilla essence
A pinch of salt
90g plain flour, sieved
1-2tbsp raspberry purée (see above)

In a bowl with a wooden spoon, beat the icing sugar, butter, vanilla essence and salt together for a minute or so. Gradually add the egg white and then fold in the flour. Store in the fridge until required.

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Place the template on a non-stick oven tray, or a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Spread a thin layer of the mix over the template then lift it up. Drizzle about half a teaspoon of the raspberry purée on the mix and lightly spread it a little with the back of the teaspoon to form a streaky effect. Repeat to fill the tray; bake for 5-6 minutes. Leave to cool if you want flat biscuits, or roll them over a rolling pin or bottle to make them curved.

 

Custard spring rolls with gooseberries and elderflower

Serves 4

The custard mix will make more than four spring rolls, so I suggest you freeze the extras for another time. If you can get hold of the red dessert gooseberries, it will give a good splash of colour.

vanilla pod
300ml single cream
5 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
3tsp cornflour

To serve

8 or so spring roll wrappers
1 small egg, beaten
100ml elderflower cordial
150-200g gooseberries (green or red)
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
Icing sugar for dusting

First, make the custard: split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Put the cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and pour on to the egg mixture and mix well with a whisk. Return to the pan and cook gently over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens; don't let it boil.

Remove from the heat and give a final mix with a whisk and transfer to a clean bowl. Refrigerate for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, put the elderflower cordial in a pan and bring to a simmer, stir in the gooseberries, cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Stir every so often so they gently cook and keep their shape.

To prepare the spring rolls, transfer the custard to a piping bag with the widest tube. Lay the spring roll wrappers on a work surface with a corner facing you. Pipe the mix along the centre of each one, stopping short of the left and right corners. Fold the corners towards the middle, brush the pastry with the beaten egg and carefully roll into cylinders.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Deep fry the spring rolls for a minute or so until golden, turning them with a slotted spoon while they are cooking, then drain on some kitchen paper.

To serve, dust the spring rolls with icing sugar, spoon the gooseberries and syrup in to serving bowls and place the spring rolls on top.

 

Strawberries with hazelnut meringue

Serves 4

This is a bit of a version of a feuillette, but using thin meringue instead of puff pastry. I've used hazelnuts but you could use any nuts, or even a mixture; the same goes for the fruits.

For the meringue

2 egg whites
70g caster sugar
1tsp cornflour
1tsp white wine vinegar
100g hazelnuts, lightly roasted and chopped

To serve

200ml double cream
A few drops of good-quality vanilla essence
1tbsp caster sugar
400g strawberries, hulled

Preheat the oven to 120C/gas mark 1. In a mixing machine, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the caster sugar and continue whisking until it's stiff and shiny. Add the cornflour and vinegar and whisk for about 30 seconds, then fold in half of the hazelnuts. Spread the mixture, about half a cm thick, on to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and scatter over the rest of the hazelnuts. Cook in the oven for about an hour until it's crisp, but don't let the outside colour. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, blend about a third of the strawberries in a liquidiser; slice the rest. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla essence; fold in the purée and sliced strawberries to form a ripple effect. To serve, break the meringue into big pieces, place one on each plate, spoon on the strawberry mixture and place another piece of meringue on top.

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