Nothing says summer more than the arrival of the first raspberries; blood-red in colour, tart and sweet at the same time, and deliciously velveteen in texture and appearance. The first batch of this lovely fruit should be eaten in the simplest way – put them in a bowl, drizzle over a little thick cream and a dusting of sugar – the gratifying flavour of an English summer in one simple dish.
Later in the season, raspberries are great combined with softer, sweeter fruits such as peaches, nectarines, or ripe green figs, or baked in an open-topped tart. They also make a very good ice-cream or sorbet and can be combined with redcurrants and stale bread to make that quintessentially English dessert, summer pudding.
Later in the summer my very favourite raspberries of all – known as Tulameen – begin to appear at Petersham. Their flavour is more mellow, less tart, sweet and luxurious; we combine them with creamy, rich and soft Wigmore cheese and a drizzle of honey; a slightly surprising combination but nevertheless one of the nicest I know.
Like many of the most delicious berries, raspberries are delicate and can't be stored for long. They are too fragile to be washed, so buy only those that have not been sprayed with pesticides. Carefully empty out the punnets on to kitchen paper, and discard any that show signs of bruising or mould. Carefully pick off any stems or leaves and eat as soon as possible.
If you have a glut in your garden, you can freeze them for future use in sauces or ice-cream: simply lay out on trays and place in the freezer; once frozen they can be transferred to plastic bags and returned to the freezer. Squashed raspberries or those not used right away can be crushed with sugar and boiled to make jam.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627
Almond tart with raspberries and crème fraîche
This simple tart combines well with most fruits that have a slight acidity – the tart itself is chewy and sweet, so raspberries make the perfect foil.
For the pastry
125g/4oz unsalted butter
250g/8oz plain flour
25g/1oz caster sugar
1 whole organic free-range egg
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1tsp iced water
For the almond filling
300g/10oz whole blanched almonds
300g/10oz unsalted butter
300g/10oz caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla extract
6 organic free-range eggs
The zest of one unwaxed lemon
1 punnet of raspberries
For the pastry, make sure the butter is cold, and dice into small pieces. Sift the flour and place in a food mixer; add the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Turn the motor on and pulse until you have the consistency of wet sand. At this stage add the water; the pastry will soon begin to come together and form a ball. Turn off the machine and remove the ball of pastry to a work surface; knead lightly once or twice and wrap in parchment paper. Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Once it is chilled, lightly flour your work surface and roll the pastry into a circle about an eighth of an inch thick. Line a 10-inch tart tin, pressing the pastry firmly into the side of the tin with your thumbs. Prick the base well all over with a fork and return to the fridge to chill for a further 30 minutes.
While the pastry is chilling, make the almond filling. Place the almonds into a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla extract and purée until smooth. Add the eggs one by one through the funnel in the top and finally add the lemon zest. Remove from the mixer and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6 and blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes (to do this, lay a circle of greaseproof paper across the pastry and weigh down with dried beans).
Remove from the oven, discard the beans and fill with the almond paste. Return to the middle shelf of the oven. Turn down the heat to 180C/350F/Gas4 and bake for 30 minutes or until firm in the centre. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
Serve the tart with a spoonful of crème fraîche for each person and a scattering of raspberries.
Apricot and raspberry sherbet
This dessert is deliciously refreshing and not too sweet – a great end to a heavy meal.
180g/6oz caster sugar
120ml/4fl oz light, fruity red wine
A small pinch of salt
40ml/11/2fl oz double cream
Using a sharp knife, slice the apricots in half and remove the stones; place the halved apricots into a saucepan and add the sugar, pour in just enough water to cover the fruit and place over a medium heat. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook the fruit for just under 10 minutes – it should be soft and almost falling apart. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
When the fruit is cool, place the mixture in a blender with the raspberries and wine. Add the pinch of salt and purée until smooth. Strain through a colander into a clean bowl and stir in the cream.
Place in an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions or, if you don't have a machine, put in a plastic container in the freezer and stir with a fork every 20 minutes – to stop icicles forming – until frozen.
Meringue with sweet cream and raspberries
Makes 8 medium-sized meringues
For the meringue
6 organic free-range egg whites
Small pinch of salt
360g/12oz caster sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
For the sweet cream
180ml/6fl oz double cream
1tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Put the egg whites (make sure they're at room temperature) in a clean, dry bowl and add the salt. Using an electric or balloon whisk beat the egg whites, slowly at first until they break down and begin to froth slightly. Increase the speed and continue until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time and finally beat in the vanilla. Place spoonfuls of the meringue mixture on the baking tray, spacing them evenly apart to allow for them to expand. Place in the oven and immediately turn down to 120C/250F/ Gas1/2 and cook for 45 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool completely before removing. If you're not using them straight away, they can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days.
To make the sweet cream, place the cream in a bowl and whisk until just soft. Add the sugar and vanilla and stir well to combine. Place the raspberries in another bowl and, using the back of a fork, press down on them gently to release the juice and lightly crush them. Stir the crushed raspberries into the cream.
Arrange the meringues on a plate and spoon the raspberry cream over them. Serve immediately.
Roasted figs with raspberries
Green figs are sweet ripe and plump right now, roasted quickly in the oven they make a simple light dessert. The gentle acidity of the uncooked raspberries works really nicely here.
4 large ripe green figs
The juice of one orange
1 tbsp Pedro Ximénez (optional – but don't substitute with another sweet sherry; this will give the best results)
1 punnet of raspberries
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Slice the figs in half and lay on a roasting tray, cut-side up. Place the orange juice, sherry and honey in a bowl and mix together to combine. Pour over the figs and place the roasting tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Roast for 15 minutes or until the figs are soft, almost bubbling and slightly caramelised around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool, place in the fridge to chill; they are nicest served slightly cold.
Arrange attractively on a plate and scatter the raspberries over the top. Serve with a dollop of rich thick Jersey cream.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer on where to find the best raspberries...
Pick Your Own provides a searchable list of berry growers and farm shops around the country (www.pickyourown.org).
Bouvrage is a natural, gently sparkling raspberry drink made in Alloa, Scotland, from local berries (www.bouvrage.com)
Benson's sells its apple and raspberry juice by mail order and at farmers' markets (www.bensonsapplejuice.co.uk)
Trevervan Jams are made by Jo Smith in Cornwall. Available by mail order (Tel: 01840 770 486)
Cottage Pride's award-winning Irish raspberry jam is made in small batches to a traditional family recipe in County Omagh (www.irishgourmet.co.uk)