Strawberries are in season from now until September. There are many different types but I particularly like the Jubilee variety from Kent, which are firm and shapely; Sonata, larger and juicier with the most heavenly of scents; and Evie (my youngest daughter's name), small, dark-red in colour, sweet as anything and perhaps the most juicy of all.
The arrival of the first strawberries makes me breathe a sigh of relief – at last we can make sorbets and granitas with their clear, clean bursts of flavours, the perfect end to a summer meal. Summer fruits make the best jams, but it's tempting to pop them in your mouth just as they are.
Do bear in mind that fruits bought in supermarkets are often harvested before they ripen to prevent damage during transportation – sadly their flavour never develops. To be able to eat perfect fruit, grow or pick your own. Failing that, try to buy from local farmers' markets.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
The cleanest and most vibrant sorbet of all – and it takes almost no time to make.
180g/6oz caster sugar
375g/12oz ripe strawberries
1 unwaxed lemon, skin left on but pips removed, chopped up into little pieces
A pinch of sea salt
Hull the strawberries and slice in half. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, place in a shallow container in the freezer, stirring with a fork every hour or so until it has set – this is called a granita. Both are best eaten on the day of making.
I made 12 jars of this recently. I'll take one or two home to eat myself on toast with butter; the rest I'll use at work, smeared over tart shells, covered with almond frangipane and baked until golden.
Strawberries have a low pectin content, so it does not set as hard as other jams and is quite runny. If you prefer a firmer jam, add a third of a cup of redcurrant juice.
You will need sealable, sterilised jars to store the jam. Dishwashers sterilise everything, but if you don't have one, drop the jars into a pan of boiling water for 12 minutes then dry well before use.
Makes about 4 jars
1kg/2lb strawberries, hulled
1kg/2lb caster sugar
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, place over a low heat and simmer gently until the sugar dissolves – always simmer very slowly to extract the natural pectin. Stir every now and then to prevent the fruit from catching and don't be afraid to top up with a little water if it becomes dry.
Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to high and boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Once you think it might be ready, do the "wrinkle test". Place a spoonful of the jam on a saucer in the fridge for a few minutes to cool. Run a finger through the jam: if the surface wrinkles, it's ready. If not, return to the stove and boil swiftly. When done, rest the pan with the fruit in it for 10 minutes until the preserve is just setting around the edges. This helps to achieve even distribution of fruit and juice.
Spoon into jars, seal and allow to cool before storing in the fridge or cool place. It will keep well in the fridge for a few months.
Melon, strawberries and rose-scented geranium cream
I have two pots of geraniums in my garden that smell of old-fashioned roses – the scent is in the leaves rather than the flower. I use them to flavour custards, ice-creams and syrups. This variety is called rose attar; hardy and fast-growing, during the winter months it sits happily in my kitchen, its glorious scents lingering in the air.
Always use fruit that is ripe – it is almost not worth eating at all unless in season. Charentais melons from France are the sweetest of all and perfect just now.
For the cream
500ml/17fl oz double cream
10-12 geranium leaves
120g/4oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise
400g/13oz ripe strawberries
2 tbsp rose water
1 level tbsp icing sugar
The juice of half an orange
1 ripe melon
Place the ingredients for the cream in a saucepan over a very low heat for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to ensure the sugar has dissolved – the cream will thicken and reduce slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill. You can make this up to 24 hours in advance, but if you do so, make sure the container is well covered so that it does not pick up any flavours from the fridge.
When you want to prepare the dish, hull the strawberries and slice in half, place in a bowl and sprinkle over the rose water, icing sugar and orange juice. Leave to macerate in the fridge for an hour.
Just before serving, slice the melons in half and scoop out the seeds. Slice into eight and remove the skin. Arrange the fruit attractively on a plate and spoon over the cream (having removed the vanilla pods and leaves). Serve at once.Reuse content