Perfectly ripe British berries are at their best right now: put them to good use in these recipes by food writer and TV presenter Rosie Birkett
“Like Pimm’s, wellies and barbecues in the park, berries are one of the harbingers of the British summer.”
“Berries are miraculous little things. I grow some in my allotment, and constantly fighting to keep the slugs and bugs away from the plants has given me a new-found appreciation for the effort it takes to produce something so perfectly sweet and full of flavour.
“I love that, like me, M&S strawberries are from Kent – I’m biased, but I think the fruits grown there are particularly good. I always buy British berries – the fresher and more local, the better the flavour.
“I’m a fan of blistering blueberries in a hot pan until they release a lovely deep purple juice, as in my blueberry breakfast bruschetta. The berry juice bleeds into the ricotta, while black pepper and basil bring aromatic notes – it works, you’ll see!
“Berries are great for baking, and my summer berry upside-down cake is a winner every time. Flaked almonds give the sponge a gorgeous texture, and the raspberries and blueberries
pop and collapse as it bakes. Serve some fresh strawberries on the side, and you’re good to go.
“Lemon meringue is one of my all-time favourite flavour combinations, and adding raspberries to my miniature tart versions only improves it. You can make the meringue kisses in advance, then the tarts are super-easy to put together – nobody needs to know you didn’t make the pastry cases or the lemon curd, as they both taste so beautifully homemade. I’d serve these during a summer lunch party or barbecue with mates.
“Don’t discount berries for savoury dishes – try pairing strawberries and blueberries with rocket leaves, balsamic and salty goat’s cheese for a light salad. If you’ve got a glut, they’ll freeze well, ready to be blitzed into smoothies or cooked down into glossy sauces: there really is no end to the uses of these quintessentially British summer fruits.”
“These little tarts look so impressive. Once you’ve made the meringue kisses, it’s just a case of assembling – perfect for picnics or al fresco drinks.”
2 medium egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
125g golden caster sugar
12 mini all-butter sweet tart cases
80g M&S Sicilian lemon curd
Heat the oven to 120°C/100°C fan/gas mark 1. Line a flat baking sheet with baking paper. In a spotlessly clean stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and lemon juice until soft peaks form, then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until thick and glossy – about 4-6 minutes.
Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle and pipe little meringue kisses onto the baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, until crisp.
Fill the tart cases with a spoonful of lemon curd. Top with a raspberry or two and a couple of meringue kisses, and serve.
Summer berry upside-down
“This delicious, easy cake is gorgeous for breakfast with natural yoghurt, or dessert with cream and macerated strawberries.”
50g flaked almonds
100g plain flour
200g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
4 medium eggs
120g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
100ml whole milk
1 tbsp olive oil
400ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 and grease and line a round 20cm cake tin. Scatter half the flaked almonds over the base, followed by the berries and the rest of the flaked almonds.
Sift the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir to combine. In a stand mixer, on a medium speed, whisk the eggs and sugar for 2-3 minutes, until frothy. Whisk in the milk, vanilla essence and olive oil. Fold the frothy egg mixture into the dry ingredients to make a thick, but wet batter. Pour this over the berries and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, remove the green leaves from the strawberries and slice. Toss with the caster sugar to macerate (bring out the juices and concentrate the flavour) and whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven and cool in its tin on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave to cool, then serve with the strawberries and whipped cream.
Blistered blueberry and ricotta
“This is a cross between a ricotta and blueberry pancake and breakfast toast. I love how the blueberries burst in the mouth, and the basil brings freshness.”
2 slices of sourdough or ciabatta
2 tbsp ricotta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
A small handful of fresh basil
Salt and black pepper
Toast the bread until golden, then drizzle with a little olive oil and spread with the ricotta.
Heat the remaining olive oil over a high heat in a non-stick frying pan and add the blueberries. Cook until blistered, then add a pinch of salt and the balsamic vinegar and honey.
Cook until collapsing, then pile onto the ricotta toast and top with basil and freshly ground black pepper.