Strawberry Fields Forever

Let me take you down, cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
– John Lennon

We all love the more relaxed state of mind summer brings, and for us strawberries epitomise summertime here in Britain.

Strawberry season is well upon us, and having had the sunniest weather for over 90 years 2015 is truly a bumper crop. Wimbledon spectators ate their way through a staggering 28,000 kilos this year and with good reason. Not only are they fragrant and tasty but they are good for you too.

The strawberry plant, along with its good friend the raspberry plant, is a member of the rose family; and in Ancient Greece the strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love. It is actually not a berry in the true sense as strawberries carry their pips on the outside of their flesh rather than on the inside.

Strawberries have high nutritional value. Eight strawberries contain more Vitamin C then an orange; 100g of strawberries will serve you for just 50 calories and 0g of fat. They can whiten your teeth. Strawberries are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers – they are full of vitamin C, B6, fibre, folic acid, potassium and amino acids.

Strawberries also contain high levels of nitrate. This has been proven to increase blood and oxygen level flow to the muscles. It is believed that people who load up on strawberries prior to exercising have far greater endurance and burn more calories.

Not bad for a little red berry.

Health properties aside I like my strawberries with meringues and whipped cream and so my recipe this month is Eton Mess. This is traditionally served at the annual cricket match between Eton College and Harrow public schools. Legend has it that the hampers containing the meringues and strawberries for the cricket tea were dropped, the meringues were smashed and the strawberries crushed. What to do? Mix it all up and serve with a smile, after all, this is England old chap!

‘Fragaria’ is the name of the genus collectively known as strawberries, and most strawberries were cultivated from Fragaria brought from Chile and France in the 18th century.

Strawberries are extremely versatile. They are freezable, especially if you are planning on blitzing them into a smoothie or simmering them to make a coulis afterwards. Strawberry sauce on pancakes, waffles or ice cream goes down a treat at any time of year.

Make a jug of lemonade look pretty by adding halved strawberries and slices of lemon to it. Serve them on porridge, or with meringues, in trifle or made into jam. Strawberries have a lot to answer for, and it just wouldn’t be summer without them!

Strawberry Fields

If we’ve tickled your fancy there are a few places pretty close to home on the outskirts of London, where you can still Pick Your Own. Gather up your children, grab a basket, and head to:

parksidefarm2

Parkside Farm

Enfield,
Middlesex,
EN2 8LA
Website

stanhillfarm1

Stanhill Farm

Wilmington,
Dartford,
Kent
DA2 7HD
Website

Hewittsfarm1

Hewitts Farm

Orpington,
Kent
BR6 9BX
Website

strawberry-sauce

Recipe for Strawberry Compote Sauce

  • 500g Ripe strawberries, hulled
  • 4 tbsp Caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Cut the strawberries in half and put in a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the strawberries for 5 minutes or until dark red and syrupy. Strain if you wish. Cool. The compote can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Cooking the Books

I am often asked which are my favourite cookery books. The truth is I am addicted to them, I have more than three hundred at the last count.

One of best places to explore and sniff out the best is at Books For Cooks, if you are a cook book junkie it is here that you will find your fix.

books-for-cooks

Books for Cooks

4 Blenheim Crescent,
London
W11 1NN.

Website

However, here are a few of my all time favourites… but there are more, so many more!

beyond_nose_to_tail

Beyond Nose To Tail

by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly.

cooking_in_ten_minutes

Cooking In Ten Minutes

by Edouard De Pomiane.

the_kitchen_diaries

The Kitchen Diaries

by Nigel Slater.

english_food

English Food

by Jane Grigson.

roast_chicken_and_other_stories

Roast Chicken and Other Stories

by Simon Hopkinson.

alice_b_toklas

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

by Alice B. Toklas

omlette_glass_of_wine

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine

by Elizabeth David.

fog_city_diner

Fog City Diner Cookbook

by Cindy Pawlcyn.

Bloody Mary Mornings

“It’s a Bloody Mary morning,
baby left me without warning,
sometime in the night…”

…sings Willie Nelson and it sounds like reason enough to me to order a tall, spicy, blood red, vodka fuelled cocktail. Those lyrics in fact, could have gone any old way really…

“It’s a Bloody Mary morning,
I woke up and I was yawning/
and the curtains they need drawing/
the rain it was still pouring,”

etc…etc…

Let’s face it, you don’t need a reason you need an attitude. It’s seen as a slightly indulgent, louche type of beverage, drunk by equally indulgent, louche individuals. It’s a stylish, classy drink, not on a par with a martini you understand, but in a class all of its own. A breakfast cocktail no less, now that’s hardcore. Daiquiris and Pina Coladas should hang their heads in shame, this is a drink to be reckoned with.

Willie Nelson rates it and I could definitely see Jeffrey Barnard and Peter O’Toole downing a few at the Coach and Horses in Soho whilst trying to remember the what’s, whys and wherefores of the previous evening. A hell raisers drink no less.

It is my favourite cocktail on a par with a Negroni. It’s an easy choice between the two though, my rule is: only drink Bloody Marys whilst there is still daylight and after sundown it’s Negronis all the way. Often all the way to all kinds of misadventures and I’ve ended up with some interesting tales to tell and some that are best forgotten.

It’s also seen as a civilised way to start your Sunday brunch and cure your hangover all in one tall drink. That being said there are some bloody awful Bloody Marys around and there really is nothing more disgusting than a glass of tepid tomato juice with some vodka and a few desultory drips of Lea and Perrins sinking through the goo.

These are the components of a good Bloody Mary:

  • Freshly grated horseradish
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Good vodka
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • Tomato juice
  • Celery salt
  • Lea & Perrins
  • Ice

The combination of these elements produces a drink that engages all of our senses full on.

BEHOLD the highball glass filled with a drink the colour of bull’s blood sporting an even taller stick of celery with a fat wedge of bright green lime languishing on top.

PICK IT UP and feel the chill and the condensation on the frosted glass.
INHALE the aromas of horseradish, always a winner for clearing the sinuses, mingling with fresh pepper and spices.
HEAR the crunch of that first bite of celery and the clink of the ice.
TASTE it, that first mouthful, spicy tomato juice and horseradish shot through with the sharpness of fresh lemon and pepper and of course the hit of the vodka…delicious!

You can keep your Bellinis and Buck’s Fizz, for me, if you’re going to drink Champagne for, breakfast, then drink it, don’t dilute it. Personally there’s no contest, if you’re drinking before lunch, maybe even before your morning coffee, then it has to be Bloody Marys all the way.

GLUTEN FREE DIET (GFD)

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on a Gluten Free Diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

DAIRY FREE / LACTOSE FREE DIET

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on a Dairy Free or Lactose Free Diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

VEGAN/RAW DIET

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on a Vegan or a Raw diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

THE PALEO DIET

This dish is suitable or can be adapted to be suitable for those who are on The Paleo Diet.

As part of our Inclusive NOT Exclusive initiative we have introduced many new dishes and tweaked some of our long standing favourite dishes so that they can be enjoyed by those with specific dieatary requirements.

Celebrate Thanksgiving at Ffiona’s.

Lunch and dinner on Thursday November 28th 2024
Bookings from 12pm to 8.30pm (last sitting)
£75 per person.