Stateside, this aperitif often precedes a meal, but can also constitute the meal itself. Traditionally, it is drunk straight from the bottle, the vessel concealed in a paper bag. No doubt Kerouac, and his model for On the Road, Neal Cassady, observed decorum and served it mainly on park benches.
Margaret Gapp of Worthing, West Sussex, deserves a worthy mention for her fruit soup, though she was narrowly beaten by Elaine Bates of Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, for her use of seasonal local fruit. Ms Gapp suggests serving her soup with sour cream. Ms Bates, and a second winner named below, will receive a bottle of sauternes, Chateau Coutet 1983 Barsac, from Reid Wines near Bristol.
Ingredients: 2lb (900g) soft fruit (according to taste: raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, whitecurrants and tayberries)
juice of 1 sweet orange
6fl oz (175ml) light red wine, such as beaujolais
2-4oz (60-115g) sugar (this will vary according to taste and sweetness of fruit)
Preparation: Clean and (if necessary) hull fruit. Mix in large bowl. Dissolve sugar in orange juice. Add red wine. Bring to boil and pour over fruit. Let stand for four hours or overnight, before serving.
THE second winning recipe, from Florence Rossetti of Bath, is for strawberries with elderflower zabaglione. It is her invention; zabaglione is traditionally made with marsala or red wine. Ms Rossetti also parts with convention by folding in one egg white for body. Whatever the syrup, the ratio of sugar to liquid is important. The formula taught by Maddalena Bonino, chef at Bertorelli's in Covent Garden, London, is 2tsp sugar to one egg yolk to 4tsp liquid.
Elderflower Zabaglione with Strawberries
Ingredients: 3 punnets strawberries, washed, gently patted dry and hulled
For zabaglione: 4 egg yolks
1oz (30g) caster sugar
4fl oz (120ml) elderflower syrup
1 egg white
For syrup: 6fl oz (180ml) water
3oz (85g) granulated sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
5-7 elderflower heads
Preparation: Syrup: Slowly dissolve granulated sugar in water with lemon zest, then boil fast for five minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and elderflowers. Steep until cool and strain.
Zabaglione: Bring water to boil in the bottom of a double boiler, then reduce to simmer. Working away from the heat, whisk egg yolks with caster sugar in the top of the double boiler, until pale and thick. Place over double boiler, ensuring that water is several inches from the bottom of the top pan. Add 4fl oz (120ml) elderflower syrup and beat until mixture foams and thickens. Remove from heat and continue beating as it cools. Beat egg white in a clean, dry bowl until stiff, then fold into egg and syrup mixture. Pour over strawberries and serve.
Next week, more summer fruits. Entries are welcome for our new category: cold pasta salads. Send recipes to: Emily Green, Weekend Features, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Those whose recipes we print will receive a copy of Elizabeth David's Summer Cooking from Books for Cooks in west London.