Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Superfoods - Strawberries

The arrival of the first English strawberries used to be the signal of summer – Wimbledon, Henley, Ascot, these were the places that epitomised genteel sunny afternoons eating strawberries and cream on perfectly manicured lawns. Sadly you can now buy this wonderful fruit for pretty well the whole year in any supermarket near you, but they never have the flavour of the first English fruits.

Strawberries have an unfortunate reputation of aggravating the pain in arthritic joints, but nothing could be further from the truth as they have an amazing ability to help the body get rid of uric acid, the chemical responsible for much of the pain and inflammation in arthritis and gout. They are very rich in vitamin C which means that their valuable iron content is well absorbed, making strawberries an ideal remedy for anaemia and both physical and mental exhaustion.

Used for their healing properties for over 400 years, each one is a mouthful of natural health insurance – and they’re one medicine that doesn’t need a spoonful of sugar to help it down.


One Hour Home Made Bread And Strawberry Jam
Makes one large loaf and two jars of jam

This takes me back to childhood – and hopefully you too. Until I became a regular bread and jam maker I always thought they both took hours but they don’t. Strawberries contain very little pectin, the setting agent, so you need the redcurrants. I learnt the quick bread method from that great cookery writer, Doris Grant, who I think developed it during the war to save energy. It does make a slightly denser loaf and you might have a failure or two to begin with. But keep trying till you get it right.

For the bread:
1 sachet (7g) easy-blend yeast
700g/ 1.5lbs wholemeal bread flour (preferably organic)
for a lighter loaf mix white and wholemeal – you can also add rye flour, oats, sunflower seeds for a variety of flavours and textures
Half a tspn salt
2 tbspns olive oil
1 tbspn molasses

For the jam:
225g/ half lb redcurrants
900g/2lb strawberries, washed and hulled
1.3 kg/3lb jam sugar

Firstly, start the bread. Mix together the yeast and flour and set aside in a large bowl. Stir the salt, oil and molasses into 600ml/1 pint of warm water until completely dissolved. Make a well in the flour mixture and stir in the liquid.

Knead vigorously for about four minutes until the dough comes away without sticking to the sides of the bowl. Put on a lightly floured board, divide in two and shape into two large ’buns’. Cover with a clean damp teacloth and leave to rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes, until the dough rises.

Put onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and with a very sharp knife make three parallel cuts across each loaf. Put into a pre-heated oven 200C/400F for about 30 minutes. Test to see if the bread is done by tapping the underneath which should sound hollow. If not, put it back for a few more minutes.

While the bread is cooking, start the jam. Put the redcurrants into a stainless steel pan with 125ml/4 fl oz water and simmer for 15 minutes. Push through a sieve with a wooden spoon, keeping the juice. Put the strawberries into a large pan. Add the redcurrant juice, bring to a simmer and cook for four minutes. Mash with a whisk or fork.

Having warmed the sugar in a low oven, add slowly to the strawberry mixture stirring over a gentle heat it’s all dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil for 15 minutes, stirring constantly until a spoonful of the jam sets on a cold plate. Pour into sterilised jam jars (see Michael’s Tip). Seal and label – leave a good ladle full to cool in a bowl ready to enjoy with your fresh bread.

Michael’s Tip

Jam jars can be sterilized by cleaning them thoroughly then putting them straight into the dishwasher. Otherwise, put them on kitchen paper on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 150C/ 300F for about 20 minutes.

Strawberry Sundae Crunch
Serves two

Mixing cheese, strawberries and cereals may seem a bit odd. But it works – believe me. Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. The cereal gives you lots of high-fibre and low GI carbohydrates. And the orange juice and salad, of course, add a good dose of vitamin C.

225g/ 8oz fresh strawberries, hulled
200ml/ 8 fl oz freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1 dsp brown caster sugar
250g/9 oz cottage cheese
75g/3 oz sugar free organic muesli
1 large handful mixed salad leaves

Put half the strawberries, two tablespoons of orange juice and the sugar into a blender or food processor and whiz until smooth. Mix the cottage cheese with the rest of the orange juice and muesli. Put the salad greens on two plates and top each with half the cottage cheese mixture. Add the remaining sliced strawberries and pour over the liquidised sauce. Sprinkle on the orange zest.

Duck And Strawberry Salad
Serves four

This is one to die for – particularly as summer is here and eating al fresco is on many people’s minds. If you’re into picnics, it’s a doddle – as long as you keep it in a cold bag to prevent any risk of food poisoning.

4 tbspns good quality low fat mayonnaise
2 tbspns green tomato chutney
The zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tspn garam masala
2 duck breasts, stir fried and cut into cubes
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
4 spring onions, finely sliced
225g/8 oz strawberries
1 large red leaved lettuce, like lollo rosso

Put the mayo, chutney, lime zest and juice, plus the garam masala into a large bowl and stir well. Then add the duck, celery and onions, stir again, cover and chill.

To serve, cover each plate with red leaves, mound the salad into the middle and surround with thinly sliced strawberries.

Duck is a good source of iron and B vitamins. Combining the meat with high vitamin C content of the strawberries and lime juice will maximise the amount of iron that you can absorb from this light and delicious dish.

Louisiana Fish With Hot Southern Strawberry Sauce.
Serves two

I love almost all fish and in this recipe I’ve used simple plaice fillets, delicate, digestible and very quick to cook. Some people might think plaice is bland, but that’s only if you cook it to death and it wasn’t fresh to start with. You can use any flat white fish and they’ll all go wonderfully with this unusual sweet but hot, spicy sauce, which combines sumptuous strawberries, hot chillies and horseradish. I was lucky enough to have this wonderful root growing in our English field. Sadly I haven’t found it growing here in France, but you can buy preserved grated horseradish that works just as well. Do not make the mistake of using horseradish sauce which doesn’t have the bite to go with this recipe.

4 plaice fillets – not ones with black skin
3 tbspns hot chilli sauce
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
6 tbspns strawberry jam (see recipe above, or buy a really good quality variety, preferably organic)
3 tbspns red wine vinegar
2 tsp finely grated horseradish
1 dsp mango chutney
1 dsp lime pickle
2 tsp soy sauce
75g/3 oz wholemeal flour
75g/3 oz cornmeal
75ml/3 fl oz rapeseed oil
2 beaten eggs
250g/8 oz ripe fresh strawberries, halved

Rinse the fish under cold running water, pat dry, put into a flat dish. Season with fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of coarse sea salt and the hot chilli sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Put the strawberry jam in a small thick bottomed saucepan with the garlic, red wine vinegar, horseradish, mango chutney, lime pickle and soy sauce. Simmer very gently stirring from time to time.

Mix the flour and cornmeal on a large flat plate. Put the beaten eggs in a shallow rectangular dish. Remove fillets one at a time from the marinade, dip each one into the egg then coat in the cornmeal mixture and shallow fry in a large pan with the rapeseed oil. This shouldn’t take more than 2-3 minutes each side. When brown and crisp remove the fish, drain on kitchen paper. Put plenty of the strawberry sauce on each plate, add two fillets to each and garnish with the strawberry halves.


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