Without a doubt, one of the best things about summer is fresh fruit. Berries are an especially wonderful delicacy to be (briefly!) enjoyed over the summer months—they won't be as cheap, fresh, or local at any other time of the year. If you're wondering which berries are in season when, here's a run down of peak seasons for the Northern Hemisphere:
- Blackberries and Raspberries: June-September
- Blueberries: July
- Strawberries: May/June
Picking your own berries can be a fun activity for the whole family, and gives kids a healthy dose of science, physical exercise and sunshine! Contact local farms in your area to see when their crops might be available for picking.
Once you get home from the farm you'll need some great berry recipes to reward your family for a hard day's picking. Need some fresh ideas? Here are three great recipes from Kathryn Hawkins' new book Fruit!
Rhubarb and Raspberry Crumble This comforting pudding is best served hot with Custard sauce. You can replace the raspberries with small whole strawberries if preferred.
Serves 4 to 6
1 lb (500g) rhubarb 2/3 cup (150g) fresh raspberries Generous ½ cup (125g) extra-fine sugar 1 ½ cup (180g) self-rising flour 1 stick (250g) butter ½ cup (60g) ground almonds
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Trim the rhubarb and cut into 2-in (50cm) lengths. Place half the rhubarb in the bottom of a 5-cup (1.2-L) oval baking dish.
Top with the raspberries and scant ¼ cup (30g) sugar, then the remaining rhubarb and another scant 1 cup (30g) sugar. Set aside.
Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until well combined and the mixture starts to cling together in lumps. Stir in the remaining sugar and the ground almonds.
Set the rhubarb dish on a baking sheet, and carefully sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes covering the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Pierce the rhubarb in the center of the dish to make sure it is tender. Best served hot, with Custard sauce (see below.)
Custard Sauce Makes approx. 2 ½ cups (600ml)
4 level Tbsp cornstarch 3 Tbsp extra-fine sugar 2 ½ cups (600ml) whole milk 2 egg yolks Few drops vanilla extract Few drops yellow food coloring (optional)
In a saucepan, blend the cornstarch with a little of the milk to make a smooth paste. Stir in the sugar and remaining milk. Heat, stirring, over the heat until boiling and thick—you may find it easier to use a whisk to help keep the mixture smooth. Cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the egg yolks and return to the heat. Cook through for 3 minutes, stirring, but without boiling. Add vanilla extract to taste, and color with food coloring if liked. To use cold, pour into a heatproof bowl and cover the surface with wax paper to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool before covering and chilling until required.
For a thicker custard, use 1 Tbsp more cornstarch.
Soft-bake Blueberry and White Chocolate Cookies Half cookie, half cake. Once you've baked these you'll not be able to leave them alone, but, if you can resist, they do freeze well!
11/2 sticks (180g) unsalted butter, softened Scant 1 cup (150g) light brown sugar 1 egg yolk 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour 1 pinch salt ½ tsp baking powder 1 tsp vanilla extract 4 oz (125g) white chocolate, cut into small chunks 2/3 cup (150g) fresh blueberries
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolk and carefully stir in the flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla extract, chocolate chunks and blueberries to make a firm dough.
Form into walnut-sized balls and place a little apart, on the prepared baking sheets, then press down gently to flatten the tops. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes until just firm and lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool further. Even more delicious served slightly warm with ice cream.
Strawberry Granita This Italian water ice is very refreshing and is often served in between courses as a palate cleanser. I like the Middle Eastern flavor of rosewater, but if the flavor of the strawberries you are using is perfumed, then it may be unnecessary.
Serves 4 to 6
Generous ½ cup (125g) extra-fine sugar 2 cups (475ml) water 3 ¾ cups (500g) strawberries 2 tsp rosewater (optional) Rose geranium leaves and rose petals, to decorate
Place the sugar in a saucepan with the water. Heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash and hull the strawberries, then cut in half. Add to the syrup and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the strawberries are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 30 minutes, then push through a nylon sieve, and allow to cool completely.
Stir in the rosewater, if using. Pour the cold strawberry syrup into a freezer-proof container and place in the coldest part of your freezer. The syrup will begin to freeze after about 2 ½ hours, and at this stage, you need to beat the ice crystals to break them up. Return to the freezer and stir every 30 to 40 minutes until the crystals form evenly and start to cling together. Store in the least cool part of your freezer until ready to serve.
To serve, beat the granita to break up any clumps of ice crystals and spoon into serving glasses. Decorate with the leaves and petals, and serve immediately.