In the late 1980’s I was lucky enough to be on a business trip in the Principality of Lichtenstein and was taken to lunch at a country restaurant. There was no menu; the chef came to our table and told us what we’d be eating. No choices to agonise over there! When it came to pudding, there was only one dish of the day – strawberries with ground black pepper basted in a healthy dash of kirsch topped with fresh cream. At first I thought the chef had lost his mind. When I tasted it, my taste buds exploded with delight! The pepper had truly drawn out the flavour of the strawberries.
The following week I tried to recreate it at home with poor results. I had used ordinary supermarket strawberries and all the wrong sauce mixes. I was determined to get this special dish ‘right’ so I tried again and again until I got it to a standard that made me happy – although food made by someone else always tastes better to me. It almost goes without saying that the more organic ingredients you can use the better.
· 700g strawberries with stems removed
· 150g date syrup, maple syrup or rice syrup. Honey not recommended here as it shouldn’t be heated.
· 300ml double cream (or more if you’re not on a diet)
· 4-6 tbsp Kirsch (or a single malt whisky, a good brandy etc)
· 2 tbsp olive oil
· A pinch of Fleur de Sel
· 1 tsp ground black pepper
· 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1. Rinse the strawberries, drain off the water then cut into quarters.
2. Place the strawberries in a bowl with the syrup. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.
3. Whisk the cream with half the Kirsch (whisky or brandy) until soft and thick.
4. Either… Heat the olive oil in frying pan. When hot add the strawberries and syrup. Keep the strawberries moving to coat them, adding the black pepper and balsamic vinegar. Fry for 5 – 7 minutes before adding the remaining Kirsch.
Or… preheat your oven to 350°F. While it’s heating, toss the strawberries with black pepper, add the balsamic vinegar. Place the strawberries and all the juices into a large ovenproof dish. Roast for 8 – 10 minutes until the juices are bubbling and the strawberries are hot.
5. Divide into individual dishes and serve immediately with the cream topping.