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Sweet Summertime

Life is luscious for Jonny Nicholson, Chef-Proprietor of The Sail Loft when it’s berry season

I love all manner of berries, whatever the size or colour and of course currants, plums and cherries too, they are the sweet epitome of summer sunshine on the plate.

If you are lucky and have a fruit cage on your veg patch or on the allotment, then you are probably overwhelmed with soft fruit by now, being the height of summer. I guess you’ll have dusted off the preserving pan to get jam-making and filled up the deep freeze, ready for the depth of winter.

So I thought I would just give you a few of my ideas to use up any glut of berries you’ve picked, been given or perhaps bartered for with neighbours.

There are my favourite berry classics, Eton Mess – that sweet confection of crushed meringues, strawberry sauce, dairy vanilla ice and whipped cream; Summer Pudding – bread pudding filled with berry compote, particularly good if you melt gelatine into the juices, it then slices beautifully too when set; Knickerbocker Glory – who doesn’t love an ice cream sundae and Berry Custard Tart – a flaky, buttery pastry case, filled with thick crème pâtissière and topped with apricot jam-glazed berries.

Three more modern offerings for you: Balsamic Peppered Strawberries – this sounds weird but trust me, generously sprinkle halved hulled strawberries with good balsamic vinegar, lots of freshly-ground black pepper and a thick dusting of caster sugar, close with a tight lid and every few hours, turn them upside down and gently shake, leave for 24 hours and you will have the most intense strawberry compote you can imagine; Raspberry Chocolate Nemesis – google a recipe but essentially it’s the richest choccy truffle cake you could imagine, very similar to a festive roulade, no flour, just eggs, chocolate, sugar and butter, it eats fabulously with crushed raspberries and vanilla mascarpone on the side; last of all, the celebrity favourite of Iced Berries and Hot White Chocolate Sauce  – made famous at London’s Ivy, just soften frozen berries slightly for a few minutes and top with a warm white chocolate sauce of equal volumes of white chocolate chunks and double cream, simply melted together, heavenly!

And a simple berry dessert recipe to finish, it eats best just warm so it’s ideal when entertaining outside as you can make it ahead before you light the barbecue, in the knowledge that ‘afters’ is all sorted.

Enjoy, Jonny

The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us near the campsite and lifeboat station.
W: www.sailloftsouthwold.uk   T: 01502 725713

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Berry Clafoutis

This spongy batter pudding is best made with pitted cherries, stoned apricots or whole blueberries but any mixture of berries whatever the glut to hand will work well. (serves 6)

Unsalted butter

Caster sugar

500g berries or stoned fruit

125ml double cream

125ml whole milk

Vanilla extract

4 eggs

175g caster sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

Handful of flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Grease a wide gratin dish with butter and add the fruit with a generous scattering of sugar before tossing around. Put into the oven to heat up whilst you make the batter.

Heat up the cream, milk and vanilla until it is blood temperature and set aside. Whisk up the eggs and sugar before slowly beating in the flour. Whisk in the cooled cream mixture. Pour over the fruit in the heated gratin dish, scatter with almonds and bake for 30 minutes or until the sponge is soft but set-through and lightly-golden. Allow to cool for at least half an hour before serving with cold, pouring cream.