Strawberries are the quintessential summer treat They brighten up a host of dishes from mousses and cheesecakes to ice creams and refreshing fruit cocktails. Lately however, a recent study showed they can also brighten up your sex life. Apparently, because of the high levels of zinc found in the fruits’ seeds which unlike most fruits are eaten rather than removed, eating fresh strawberries and raspberries increases the sex drive of both men and women while boosting sexual prowess and performance at the same time. Natures answer to Viagra it would seem. But all this evidence is hardly new, in medieval times strawberries were regarded as an aphrodisiac and a soup made of strawberries, borage and soured cream was traditionally served to newlyweds at their wedding breakfast while Madame Tallien, a lady at the court of Napoleon, was reputed to bathe in the juice of strawberries to enjoy their healing properties.
Most purists will tell you the only way to eat them is with thick cream and fine sugar, but strawberries make perfect partners for many ingredients including, almonds, apricots, coconut, rhubarb, kiwis and passion fruit. Try pouring a little cointreau, sherry, champagne or even balsamic vinegar over them. You could also flavour them with vanilla, cinnamon, lavender, fresh basil and black peppercorns. I like to simply marinate strawberries in a little fruity olive oil with some wonderfully fragrant lemon basil or puree them to serve as a chilled soup for dessert. It’s a really light, refreshing soup, perfect for a sunny day and it’s also a very healthy end to a meal as strawberries contain as much vitamin C as an orange with only 50 calories per serving and no cholesterol or saturated fats.
As summer starts to roll around I always think of the old English classic, Summer Pudding. I guess it’s a typical, heavy recipe from centuries past and it was most popular from the late 19th century to the early 20th century although it has made a bit of a comeback recently in some of the wonderful gastro-pubs up and down the country. Another favourite of mine is another old English classic called “Eton Mess”. There is something unashamedly wicked about this dessert. It consists of a mixture of fresh strawberries, pieces of crisp meringue and lightly whipped cream all stirred together-hence the name “mess”. The dish has been known by this name since the 19th century and was served in the 1930s in the Eton College.
Ingredients serves 4
3 egg whites
800g strawberries, washed & hulled
1tbsp icing sugar
In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gradually add the sugar, whisking continuously until the mixture is thick and glossy.
Place large spoonfuls of meringue onto a lined baking tray. Place in the oven(140C/Gas 1) and bake for at least 2-3 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven to crisp up.
Cut 500g of the strawberries in half and add the icing sugar. Chill for 1-2 hours.
Puree the rest in a hand blender to make a puree.
Whisk the cream until stiff peaks form. Roughly crush the meringues into bite-sized pieces and gently mix them with the whipped cream. Add the strawberries and pile into glass bowls. Drizzle with strawberry puree and serve immediately.
By Marc Fosh – Michelin Starred Chef