Strawberries and summer go together like the proverbial peas and carrots as Forrest Gump would tell us. For me the strawberry season really comes into full swing this week, the week that Wimbledon starts and the great British love affair with tennis resurrects itself.
Strawberries and cream are always sold at Wimbledon at exorbitant prices, prices that make them appear on the television news every year without fail. The British summer, Wimbledon, tennis, strawberries, they are all mixed up in my mind as a summer seasonal memory, something special, something to cherish.
You see when I was growing up the shops only sold strawberries when they were in season, and by season I mean in season in our own country. In the UK strawberries appear from June to August, they don’t pop up in November and January as the supermarkets would have us believe. We would eagerly await the strawberry season when tea time would be enlivened by brimming bowls of the ripe juicy red berries sprinkled with sugar and a good dollop of fresh cream on top.
I remember how my Dad used to refuse the sugar in favour of a dusting of black pepper from the grinder on the table. He swore it brought out the flavour of the berries, and yes, it certainly does, but to our childish minds this was the ultimate sacrilege, an abomination. Surely only sweet things should dance together?
Over the years (and there have been a few) my tastes have changed and as an adult I can of course appreciate the mixing of sweet with savoury and the different partnerships that can enliven our culinary palates. My days of horror at pepper on strawberries are long gone, in fact I like a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar on mine, but every year at this time when Wimbledon starts and strawberries seem to be everywhere I think back to what an enormous treat they used to be for us back in the 1960s when a little girl would gaze in wonder as her father ground pepper on the precious fruits.
So this special week I thought I would feature the strawberry in all it’s glory. That gorgeous red berry so dear to the British heart and in this first post I offer you a savoury recipe in memory of my Dad who grew fabulous tomatoes and would have really been tickled to see them mixed with his strawberries, and of course black pepper too.
Even though Dad has been gone now for ten years I think of him often, especially when I serve strawberries. So darling Dad way up there in that cloudless blue sky, this one is for you, my strawberry and tomato salad.
- 200g/7 oz ripe strawberries
- 200g/7 oz baby tomatoes
- 1 sprig fresh basil
- 150g/5 oz soft goats cheese
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Pistachio nuts to scatter
- Wipe the strawberries with a damp cloth to clean and hull them by removing leaves and stalk.
- Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds to make skin removal easy.
- Slice the strawberries and halve the tomatoes.
- Mix fruits in a bowl adding shredded basil leaves.
- Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Crush the pistachio nuts and scatter on top.
- Set aside for 30 minutes to allow flavours to develop.
- Serve in individual dishes as a starter at room temperature.