Few of our crops have a season as eagerly awaited as the British cherry. Of course, you can buy imported cherries year round, but nothing matches the lusciousness offered by our brief summer flurry of fruit.
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When (or, I should say, if) you tire of eating them by the handful, then remove the stones – one of those comfortingly repetitive culinary tasks – and discover the myriad ways of using the succulent flesh. Toss it into clafoutis batter or berry smoothies, mix with whipped cream to filll a Victoria sandwich or bubble down with sugar to make jam. And don’t stop at sweet ideas; cherries make a wonderful foil for meat and cheese when added to a fresh salsa or spiced chutney. The stoned fruit also freezes well, ready to use whenever you want to whisk your taste buds back to high summer.
CHERRY AND PEACH SALSA
Serves 4 as an accompaniment
The bright, sweet flavours of this fresh summer salsa are perfectly suited to barbecued, preferably slightly charred, lamb, beef or poultry. Or serve it with griddled halloumi, peppery salad leaves and a chunk of rustic bread. The salsa tastes best within an hour of making, but it will keep for 24 hours if covered and chilled.
300g fresh cherries, stoned and chopped
2 white peaches, stoned and chopped
Small handful of mint leaves, shredded
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Mix all the salsa ingredients together, seasoning to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve soon after making.
CHERRY AND ZABAGLIONE GATEAU
It looks impressive, but this quadruple-layered gateau really isn’t difficult to make. A fat-free sponge and plenty of fresh cherries lighten the rich, creamy Marsala-spiked zabaglione mixture, the idea for which was borrowed from a favourite Delia Smith recipe.
For the filling
4 large egg yolks
100g golden caster sugar
50g plain ﬂour, sifted
450ml double cream
For the cake
A little butter for greasing
4 large eggs
250g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain ﬂour
400g fresh cherries, stoned and halved
1. Start by making the zabaglione filling. Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl for 1 minute using an electric hand whisk. Add the sugar and whisk for 3-4 minutes, until thick and pale. Whisk in the ﬂour, a spoonful at a time, then gradually whisk in the Marsala until smooth.
2. Transfer to a saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until simmering and thick. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with cling ﬁlm and set aside to cool. Chill until needed (up to 4 days).
3. For the cake, pre-heat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm round spring-form tins and line the bases and sides with non-stick baking paper. Using an electric hand whisk or stand mixer, whip the eggs and sugar together for about 4 minutes, until very thick and pale. Beat in the vanilla, then sift over the ﬂour and fold in very carefully, retaining as much air as possible.
4. Divide the mixture between the tins, level the tops, and bake for about 35 minutes, until golden and just pulling away at the sides. Leave in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
5. Once ready to assemble the cake, halve each sponge horizontally with a long, serrated knife. Whisk the zabaglione to loosen, then softly whip the cream and fold into the zabaglione. Put a cake layer on a serving plate, cover with zabaglione and cherries, and top with another cake. Repeat the layers twice (bearing in mind you need enough zabaglione to cover the cake), then sit the final cake on top. Smooth zabaglione over the top and sides with a palette knife. Serve soon after making.
THYME ROAST CHERRIES
Serves 6-8 as an accompaniment
This can be used as a pie filling, a topping for yoghurt or granola, an accompaniment to crème brûlée or panna cotta, or a flavouring for ice cream, as in the recipe, below right.
110g light brown sugar
3 tsp cornﬂour
500g fresh cherries, stoned
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Thoroughly mix the sugar and cornﬂour in a bowl, crushing them together with the back of a spoon (to prevent the cornﬂour forming lumps). Add the cherries and thyme leaves, stirring to coat evenly.
2. Spread out in a roasting tin and cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until sticky and slightly caramelised. Serve warm or cool. Covered and chilled, this will keep for up to a week.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED CHERRY ICE CREAM CONES
This is pure decadence in a waffle cone. The melted chocolate is optional; you may wish to do without or to add a little chopped chocolate directly to the partially frozen ice cream instead. If you haven’t made the thyme roast cherries, another rich cherry compote or jam will work as well.
For the ice cream
350ml double cream
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
Pinch of sea salt
4 large egg yolks
100g golden caster sugar
1 portion thyme roast cherries (see recipe above)
200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces, to dip
8 waffle cones, to serve
1. Put the double cream, milk, vanilla pod and salt in a heavy-based saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the cream and milk through a sieve, pressing firmly to extract all the vanilla flavour.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric whisk for a few minutes, until very thick and pale. Gently bring the cream mixture to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan, then slowly pour it onto the egg mixture, beating constantly. Return this custard to the saucepan and heat gently for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Cover, set aside and leave to cool.
3. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and churn until the blade stops. Spoon into a chilled ice cream container and ripple in the thyme roast cherries, taking care not to over mix. Cover and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until ﬁrm.
4. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, then transfer to a small bowl. Scoop the ice cream into waffle cones and dip in melted chocolate. Allow to set for 1 minute before serving.
CHERRY AND AMARETTO SOUFFLES WITH CHERRY AND RASPBERRY SAUCE
Not a recipe to attempt every day, but for a special occasion you can’t beat a towering, custardy soufflé. All the components can be prepared in advance, so making the soufflés to order really isn’t a trial.
For the soufﬂés
150ml whole milk
100ml double cream
3 large egg yolks
140g caster sugar
20g plain ﬂour
400g fresh cherries, stoned
1 vanilla pod, split
1½ tbsp amaretto (optional)
Soft butter and granulated sugar for the soufﬂé dishes
2 large egg whites
For the sauce
150g fresh cherries, stoned
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1. Start by making the crème pâtissière soufﬂé base (which can be kept chilled for up to 3 days). Heat the milk and cream in a pan until nearly boiling. Beat the egg yolks with 40g caster sugar in a mixing bowl. Sift in the ﬂour and cornﬂour and mix well; add a splash of the hot milk mixture while whisking. Gradually whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Return everything to the pan and stir over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until thick and smooth. Lay cling ﬁlm over the surface to prevent a skin forming; leave to cool, then chill until needed.
2. Put the cherries in a pan with 50g sugar and the split vanilla pod. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the vanilla pod, scraping the seeds back in, and purée the cherries using a stick blender. Leave to cool, then fold into the crème pâtissière with the amaretto, if using.
3. To make the cherry and raspberry sauce, blitz all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth.
4. When ready to cook the soufﬂés, pre-heat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5, and put a baking tray on the middle shelf. Brush four 150ml ramekins or cups with soft butter using upward strokes. Coat evenly with granulated sugar, tapping the excess away, and chill for a few minutes to set the butter.
5. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until ﬁrm. Gradually whisk in the remaining 50g caster sugar. Whisk a tablespoon of this meringue into the crème pâtissière to loosen, then carefully fold in the rest with a large spoon. Spoon into each ramekin to fill by half. Tap the ramekins gently to make sure the soufﬂé mix reaches the bases. Run a thumb around the top edge of each soufﬂé to stop them spilling over. Turn the oven down to 180°C, gas mark 4. Sit the soufﬂés on a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes, until well risen and lightly golden. Serve at once, with the sauce, which should be poured into each soufﬂé as it is eaten.
BRIE AND ROCKET TOASTIES WITH CHERRY CHUTNEY
Makes 1 jar of chutney and 2 sandwiches
Liven up a classic toastie with a zing of sweetness.
For the cherry chutney
1 eating apple, grated
400g fresh cherries, stoned and roughly chopped
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp mustard seeds
¾ tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed
100g soft brown sugar
75ml cider vinegar
For the toasties
60g brie, sliced
Handful rocket leaves
4 slices sourdough bread
1. To make the chutney, put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a sterilised jar with a tight-fitting lid. The chutney will keep for up to 3 months in a cool, dark place and is best stored for a fortnight before eating.
2. To make the toasties, divide the brie and rocket between two slices of bread, spreading the remaining two slices generously with your chutney. Sandwich together, pressing down firmly, then cook in a hot griddle pan. Weigh the toastie down with something heavy like a saucepan to press the ingredients together as they heat. When the bread is marked from the griddle and the brie is melting – about 1-2 minutes on each side – slice the toasties into wedges and eat straightaway.
CHERRY AND VANILLA MARSHMALLOWS
Makes about 30
These delicate, fluffy marshmallows will leave bought versions standing. They keep well for a few days and make an excellent present.
1 tbsp vegetable oil or other flavourless oil
500g granulated sugar
8 sheets leaf gelatine
170g fresh cherries, stoned
2 large egg whites
1½ tsp vanilla bean paste
3 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp icing sugar
1. Grease a 20x20cm square baking tin with half the flavourless oil. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper and lightly grease again with the oil. Put the sugar into a saucepan with 250ml cold water and stir over a low heat until it dissolves.
2. Stand a sugar thermometer in the liquid and increase to a medium heat. Bring to the boil and simmer briskly until it reaches 122°C or 252°F. This should take at least 15 minutes. If you do not have a sugar thermometer, test by dropping a tiny amount of sugar syrup into a glass of cold water – it should form a hard ball.
3. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water, adding them one by one, until softened. Next, purée the cherries in a blender until smooth. Pass through a sieve to remove all the skin, pushing the mixture through with the back of a spoon.
4. In a stand mixer with a balloon whisk attached, whip the egg whites until stiff (only do this when the sugar syrup is very nearly at the correct temperature). Once the sugar syrup is ready, set the mixer to a low speed and pour the syrup onto the whisking egg whites in a thin stream. Increase the speed and add the squeezed-out gelatine leaves, one at a time. Continue beating for 10 minutes, until the mixture has cooled.
5. Add the vanilla bean paste, followed by the cherry purée and mix, but not too thoroughly – there should be a little marbling. Scrape into the baking tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Cover with cling ﬁ lm, keeping it away from the marshmallow surface. Allow to set in a cool place – not the fridge – for about 6 hours.
6. Once it’s set, combine the cornﬂ our and icing sugar and sift half over the marshmallow. Sift some over the sharp knife you’re going to cut the marshmallows with to prevent it from sticking. Cut the marshmallow into cubes and roll in the remaining sugar and cornﬂ our until fully covered, shaking off the excess. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Stylish/ Lucy Attwater
Photographs/ Jonathan Gregson