Mark Hix recipes: Our chef pairs strawberries with French toast, fondue and rice pudding

If you want to experience strawberries in all their majesty, banish the forced and imported varieties and plump for the late-fruiting ones, says our chef – you won’t be disappointed

Mark Hi
Friday 19 September 2014 20:20 BST
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French toast with strawberries makes a great brunch
French toast with strawberries makes a great brunch

When I was growing up, I used to spend a lot of time staying at my grandparent's house down in Dorset. I vividly remember my grandfather's crops of late strawberries and tomatoes – along with his much-loved, prize-winning chrysanthemums.

We used to harvest the strawberries, often by the handful, all through the summer. Those plants were a prolonged little treat, dispensing the bright red fruit as the weeks went by. I can almost taste them now.

Commercial growers produce strawberries for many months of the year now, of course. They need to, to compete with the imports, but the flavour of these forced varieties can't hold a candle to the late-fruiting variety you get at this time of the year. Buy a punnet – you'll never look back.

French toast with strawberries

Serves 4

French toast makes a great brunch or special breakfast dish and can be either sweet or savoury.

If you are going sweet, you can top the toast with a mixture of seasonal fruits or even a compote that you might have knocking around.

4 slices of brioche (or bread)
2 medium eggs, beaten
2tbsp caster sugar
100ml milk
A few drops of vanilla essence
100-120g butter
150-200g strawberries, hulled
4tbsp crème fraîche or clotted cream

Whisk the eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla together, lay the brioche on a deep tray and pour the egg mixture over and leave for 20 minutes.

Heat the butter in a preferably non-stick frying pan until foaming, carefully remove the brioche from the tin with a fish slice, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden.

To serve, transfer on to serving plates, spoon the crème fraîche on top and scatter the strawberries over.

Strawberries with salted caramel fondue

Serves 6-8

Fondue is a great sharing dish that, traditionally, was savoury – but serving a sweet fondue is even better, and probably more attractive for the younger members of the family.

I've made this with various inflections of flavour – such as dark and white chocolate and hazelnut praline.

250-300g strawberries

For the salted caramel fondue

280g caster sugar
140ml water
100g glucose
30g butter
500ml double cream
2tsp Cornish sea salt

Great sharing dish: Strawberries with salted caramel fondue (Jason Lowe)

Put the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil on a medium heat, add the glucose and continue boiling until the mixture starts turning a dark caramel colour. Every so often, brush the sides of the pan with water to avoid the sugar crystallising and burning.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile, in another pan, bring the cream to the boil. Gently stir the hot cream into the sugar and water mixture, bring back to the boil, then add the sea salt and butter. Serve in a fondue dish, or similar, with the strawberries all around.

Jersey rice pudding with wild strawberries

Serves 4

You can find wild strawberries in country hedgerows, or you can grow them yourself. Trouble is, you need to get to them before the birds do. I had a nice crop of golden wild strawberries coming along this year in Dorset, then a week later they had vanished. Failing all that, search your local fruit and veg shops for them.

200g pudding rice
1.2ltrs milk
80g caster sugar
Half a vanilla pod, scraped
A good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
300g thick Jersey cream
120g strawberries, hulled

Jersey rice pudding with wild strawberries (Jason Lowe)

To make the pudding, bring the milk to the boil with the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg.

Add the rice, stir well and simmer gently, stirring every so often, for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender. A simmering plate is helpful for this.

Remove from the heat, leave to cool, stir in the Jersey cream and refrigerate until required.

Meanwhile, blend the strawberries to a purée. To serve, pour the sauce on to serving plates, spoon the rice pudding on top with a large kitchen spoon and scatter the wild strawberries over. >

Knickerbocker glory

Serves 4

You rarely see knickerbocker glory any more; it used to be a seaside favourite in cafés and restaurants and then it just suddenly vanished, never to be seen again. Now, why was that? I always thought the knickerbocker glory was such a fun dessert.

What you put in it is up to you, but I've put meringues into this for some nice texture.

Fun dessert: Knickerbocker glory

300-350g strawberries, hulled
About 120ml clotted cream
About 400ml good-quality vanilla ice-cream
Meringues to garnish

Blend about half of the strawberries in a liquidiser until they form a smooth paste. Slice the rest of the strawberries. Put a few strawberry slices in each of four tall sundae glasses and spoon in some of the purée and clotted cream.

Pile three small balls of ice-cream into the glasses, scattering in more strawberry slices as you do so. Spoon on the rest of the strawberry purée and clotted cream, then top with the remaining strawberry slices and break the meringues into small pieces on top and serve.

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