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Pick'n'mix: Skye Gyngell cooks with fresh English berries

Could there be anything nicer than ripe English berries? Whether served as they come – perhaps with the smallest sprinkle of sugar and a good dollop of thick Jersey cream – puréed with a simple sugar syrup to make a refreshing cordial or added to prosecco or cava and served as an aperitif, they are perfect to eat right now.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Raspberry prosecco

This is a lovely aperitif for a warm summer's evening.

Serves 6-8

150g/5oz caster sugar
300ml/10fl oz water
1 punnet of raspberries
A bottle of prosecco

Put the sugar and water into a heavy pan and place over a low flame. Stir once or twice and, when the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to high. Cook for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Put the raspberries and cooled sugar syrup into a blender and purée until smooth. Pass through a sieve to remove seeds. Place in the fridge to chill. To serve, pour an inch of the syrup into a champagne flute and pour the prosecco on top. Stir gently to combine.

Summer pudding

Just recently I ate the most delicious of all summer puddings in Shanagarry, County Cork, at Ballymaloe House. It was heavily laced with blackcurrants, with tart, sweet, ripe berries colliding to make this most quintessential of English puddings. I like to use a classic sponge to line the mould – but if you prefer to use bread, do choose a good-quality loaf.

The proportions of the fruits used doesn't really matter: what is important is the selection. You need a mix of tart and sweet – so red or blackcurrants are a must, as are raspberries and blackberries.

Serves 6-8

For the sponge base

220g/71/2oz butter
220g/71/2oz caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
220g/71/2oz self-raising flour

For the berry filling

4 punnets raspberries
3 punnets blackberries
2 punnets redcurrants
1 punnet blackcurrants
2 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4.

To make the sponge, cream together the butter and sugar. Gradually add in the eggs, making sure the mixture doesn't split – you can add in bit of flour if it looks as though it might. Sift in the flour and gently fold in. Spread into two large flat trays and bake for around 12 minutes, or until cooked.

In the meantime, pick over the berries, then place into a bowl. Add the sugar and toss lightly to combine. Now put the berries into a heavy-based, non-reactive saucepan and place over a medium heat. Warm the berries until they soften and become juicy and the sugar has dissolved.

Now put together the pudding: line a bowl with clingfilm, cut a circle from the sponge for the bottom of the bowl, then cut out segments of sponge to line the sides.

Spoon the berries into the lined pudding basin while they are still warm and place a final, whole piece of sponge on top to create, in effect, a lid, patching here and there with smaller pieces to ensure that there are no spaces. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Place a plate on top to help weigh down the fruit and place in the fridge for two hours to allow the pudding to set.

To serve, invert the pudding on to a plate. It should unmould easily. Serve as it is – this blood-red dome looks most beguiling brought to the table – and pass around a jug of pouring cream.

It is imperative that traditional aged balsamic is used – it should be viscous and sweet to complement the ripeness of the strawberries.

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar

Serves 4

600g/11/4lb ripe strawberries
1 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Gently wash the strawberries under cool, running water. Pat dry using a clean dishcloth. Take half the strawberries, hull and chop roughly. Place in a bowl with the icing sugar and mash roughly using a fork. Leaving the stalks on, slice the remaining, whole strawberries in half, then mix all the berries together. Pour over the balsamic and stir well to combine. Arrange in a bowl and serve a little vanilla ice-cream alongside if you like.