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Strawberry Yields Forever

27th June 2014

Morangos. Truskawki. Fragole. Jagode. Fraises.

Excuse us. Now we’ve been booted out of the World-Cup and are lending support to our next favourite side we’ve come over all international.
 
But let’s leave our multilingualism aside for a moment and just say it like a local: strawberries.
Because actually, what could possibly be more English than strawberries – especially when packaged with a certain other major – and in this case, quintessentially British – summer sporting event that’s kicking off this week…?
 
And guess what – even if we’ve been disappointed (again) by England’s performance in the World Cup we are, at least, totally in luck on the British strawberry front this year, with the season starting a good few weeks earlier than it did in 2013 and looking like it’s going to continue as late as October or even early November. Of course, this happy news would be dimmed somewhat if the fruits on offer were dull or tasteless but the harvest looks set to be a cracker, with fruits appearing that are bigger, juicer and sweeter than anything we’ve seen in recent years.
 
What’s behind all of this plump deliciousness then? What else, but the good old British weather. Remember that winter we had? Yes, it rained an awful lot (apparently the wettest winter in 250 years) but it was also the fifth warmest winter ever and this, combined with decent levels of Spring sunshine has resulted in the season’s bounty. Another factor has been the increased tendency to grow strawberries under glass and in tunnels, so that the soft fruits are protected from the vagaries of the weather.
 
With the harvest so sweet (due to sunshine levels increasing photosythesis speed, which in turn ups the fruit’s sugar production) you’ll be able to skip the sprinkle of sugar on top but we reckon that’s just carte blanche to go for a guilt-free double blob of cream. Fact: over the course of Wimbledon’s fortnight, over 28,000 kg of strawberries served with over 7000 litres of fresh cream are served to tennis spectators – but even if you’re not watching the tennis, we can think of few nicer ways to celebrate the arrival of the British summer.
 
If, however, World Cup fever has got you in its thrall, why not kick off (no pun) your summer with an Italian strawberry specialty: Strawberry Risotto. Yep that’s right – Strawberry risotto! Far from being a sweet, creamy rice pudding-y sort of dish, this is actually somewhat sharp, savoury and believe us, totally delicious; replete with onions, chilli and balsamic. Intrigued? Don’t forget to show us your efforts if you try it!
 
Strawberry Risotto

450g strawberries, washed, hulled and diced

400g Arborio or carnaroli rice

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

½ tsp salt

200ml rosé or white wine

1 decent knob of butter

1 small bunch fresh basil, finely torn

50g grated Parmesan

Toss the strawberries in the balsamic vinegar and leave them to mingle for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, bring about 1 litre of water to a gentle simmer in a large pan

Heat the olive oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan and throw in the onions and chilli. Add the salt. Give it all a good stir and then lower the heat. Cover and let the onion to ‘sweat’ for about 10-15 minutes but keep checking on it to make sure it’s going translucent rather than brown.

Once the onion is very soft, add the risotto rice, turn the heat back up and stir in the rosé or white wine. Once the wine has evaporated, add the strawberries, including the juice. Add enough of the simmering water to just cover the rice. Cook and stir continuously until all the water has been absorbed. Keep adding water and stirring until the rice is al dente, and then remove from the heat. It will continue to cook through in its own heat so be careful to take it off the stove top while it’s still a tiny bit underdone.

Stir in the butter, shredded basil and half the grated Parmesan. Cover and leave the risotto for about 5 minutes. Season as desired and then serve with the remaining Parmesan.

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