Sunday 16 May 2010
The strawberry glut is upon us...and this is even before our own strawberry beds in the garden have properly ripened! A crate of strawberries ( either from Sicily, or else from the warmth of the polytunnels around Pescia) winked up at me the other day, and at only four euros for two kilos it was impossible to resist. Half a kilo has gone to make a quantity of Balsamic Strawberries, and another half went into strawberry and orange sorbet; a strawberry bavarois for supper tomorrow, and a container of vanilla ice-cream, with chopped strawberries added half way through churning, will finish the crate...after a couple of servings last night of the most delicious strawberry beignets, that is.
Served with a chilled crème anglaise, these are quite wonderful! Individual strawberry and lemon flavour-bombs, crisp inside their batter shells, and blanketed with the velvety richness of chilled crème. Not particularly for a formal occasion, since all the work is done right at the end, and for best results the beignets need to be eaten while still crisp and hot, and so should be consumed while the next batch is still being fried.
Ingredients: 24-30 fresh strawberries, hulled;
Batter:2 eggs, separated; 1 cup of flour; half a cup of milk; a generous pinch of salt; 1 tbs white wine; grated rind from 1 lemon; 1 tbs oil
Crème: 2 egg yolks; 10 fl oz milk; 1 tsp vanilla; quarter of a cup of sugar.
Icing sugar, to garnish.
Approx 2 litres of light oil, for frying.
1. Make the Crème Anglaise - heat the milk in a simmertopf; beat the yolks and sugar together until pale yellow, then whisk in the heated milk; return the mixture to the simmertopf for five minutes or so, until it has achieved spoon-coating thickness; whisk in the vanilla, and put aside to cool. Once cool, chill in the fridge.
2. Make a batter with all the ingredients listed, apart from the egg whites and the tablespoon of oil; beat the egg whites until stiff, and stir these into the batter along with the tablespoon of oil.
3. Heat the frying oil until it is very hot (it should read 395 degrees F, or thereabouts). Pour the chilled sauce onto soup plates.
4. Using cocktail sticks, spear the strawberries individually, and coat them in batter before dropping them into the hot oil. Stir them as necessary to make sure they brown on all sides - this should take only a couple of minutes. As they are done, remove them from the oil and briefly drain on kitchen paper. Dredge them with icing sugar, and place half a dozen or so per serving on each soup plate.
NB: Make sure to put a lid on the pan in which you've been frying after you've finished; even once the heat has been turned off, the oil will continue to vaporise, and the lid will at least reduce the unavoidable odour which will otherwise penetrate the entire house!