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Simon King's special summer strawberry guide
Simon King, chef/proprietor at restaurant 1861 in Cross Ash near Abergavenny, is a big fan of the sweet and succulent strawberry, here he gives a guide to the multitude of cooking options for this most versatile of fruits.

To get the very best from these luscious fruits, it’s important to make sure they are super fresh.

“I’d suggest pick-your-own, or strawberries in season at farmers’ markets, that way you know they are fresh, and they are less likely to have been grown purely for high cropping rates, rather than flavour,” he says.

“Rain will impact on the flavour of strawberries, so try and do your picking on a fine day, when the fruit has been gently warmed by the morning sun.”

Strawberries, as we all know, are gorgeous with cream, but they are very versatile and have a great flavour when poached.

“Just cook them very gently in a little caster sugar, the juice will slowly seep out and the strawberries will poach in the juice. My family’s current favourite is poached strawberries with rice pudding.”

“Our children love strawberries raw, as a snack. Even baby Thomas can munch his way though one, and he only has four teeth,” says Simon.

Simon loves making preserves, which he sells at restaurant 1861.

“Strawberry jam is fantastic, the only problem is that strawberries are low in pectin, so setting can be a problem, so add a little apple or gooseberry to help with the setting process.”

“You can even add champagne at the last minute, as well, to give a special lift. Another option is to add elderflowers, they are plentiful now, and are free. The tiny flowers add an extra flourish to the jam, and perfume it beautifully.”

Wild strawberries punch above their weight in terms of flavour.

“They may be tiny, but the taste is intense,” says Simon. “I made jam with them last year, and it was amazing.”

“Although strawberries will go perfectly in soufflés, cheesecakes and mousse, my absolute favourite is simply a bowl of them freshly picked with a dash of sugar and cream, washed down with a glass of champagne, or a Paul Cluver South African Late Harvest Riesling pudding wine.”

see - Creamed Rice Pudding, Strawberry Compote

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