Nothing says Irish summer like buying strawberries at the side of the road
Combination of strawberries and cream said to have been created by Cardinal Wolsey for Henry VIII
There is more to succulent strawberries than just whipped cream.
Every year, around this time, people pop up on the side of the road, selling Wexford strawberries. To my mind, these people are an essential part of the Irish food experience. Though I wonder how many of us stop nowadays and purchase these speckled delights? Perhaps it is the many motorways that have impeded our pleasure.
I fondly remember heading to Cullyhanna with my grandparents and purchasing strawberries along the way. Though it is not the taste I recall, but the overall effect of eating strawberries in the little car while heading up North.
Considering 10 million tonnes of strawberries are produced globally every year, it is surprising to read that before the 18th century, the garden strawberry did not exist. Before that point, it was only the woodland variety that people had to enjoy with their whipped cream. This combination is said to have been created by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey for Henry VIII in the 16th century (though I imagine someone got there before him).
The emergence of the cultivated garden strawberry arises from the breeding of the wild Chilean strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) with a North American (Fragaria virginiana) variety.
Of course, there is more to strawberries than just whipped cream. The last of this year’s elderflower would work well with them, whether as a cheesecake or a mousse.
Eton Mess is perhaps the best known combination of strawberries and cream, albeit with the introduction of meringue. To make the meringue, whip six egg whites until stiff and then gradually fold in 330g of caster sugar. Add the zest of a lemon and its juice. Spoon or pipe the meringue into rounds, on a tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 100 degrees Celsius for two hours.
Hull and quarter the strawberries, sprinkle them with sugar and allow to macerate (a little Wildwood blackberry balsamic vinegar from Fionntán Gogarty would be a nice addition).
Allow the meringue nests to cool and the mash together with the strawberries and 300millilitres of lightly whipped cream.