What do you get when you take a perennial summer favourite and add the palate and prowess of a Michelin-starred chef?
Pardon the impending cliché, but the proof of this particular pudding, is most definitely in the eating. Adam Stokes’ elegant and luxurious sparkling strawberries and cream is a kind of fruit salad, a sort of trifle but with the deftness of touch that takes it into another sphere altogether.
This is not a throw together pudding, there is some advance preparation involved in creating the different elements, but putting it all together is straightforward. If you don’t have room to refrigerate several wide shallow bowls like the one used here by Adam, you could use glasses or one large serving dish from which everyone can help themselves.
Adam says: “The macerating of the strawberries in alcohol turns them almost translucent and really brings out their flavour, as do the balsamic vinegar, black pepper and Thai basil. Just be very careful not to overdo it – it’s a fine line between perfection and overkill.”
If you’ve never tried matching these flavours with strawberries, the taste is a revelation. The sharp zing of the lemon curd against the rich velvet vanilla cream provides a decadently rich accompaniment.
You need English strawberries that are so perfectly ripe that hulling them is just a question of a quick tug and twist. If the green top snaps off without bringing the hull with it, then use a knife to remove it. Now is a great time to pick your own but if that’s too much effort, try and buy direct from a farm shop.
Adam says: “It’s important to use a quality champagne or sparkling wine for this dish as the flavour really comes through in the jelly and macerated strawberries.
‘‘English sparkling wines are enjoying a real boom and gaining global recognition so why not try one. In the restaurant we have a Cornish wine called Camel Valley and the rosé would work particularly well for this dish.”
Sparkling Strawberries and Cream (Serves 6)
Champagne jelly (Made the day before)
* 375ml champagne or English sparkling wine such as Camel Valley Rose or Nyetimber 2008
* 130ml stock syrup (to make 200ml of syrup place 125g of sugar in 125ml cold water and bring to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved). Cool and store in the fridge.
* 3 gelatine leaves
The day before you serve the dessert, soften the gelatine in cold water until soft, remove from the water and squeeze until dry.
Mix the stock syrup and champagne together.
Warm 50ml of the mixed liquor in a pan to 50 – 60C. If you haven’t got a thermometer it is worth investing in one as it will take the guess work out of many a recipe. You’ll need it for the lemon curd too, unless you’re using shop bought.
Add the gelatine and mix until dissolved. Add the warm mix to the remaining cold mix of champagne and stock syrup and put into your chosen serving dishes or glasses. Place in the fridge overnight.
* ¾ gelatine leaf
* 125g caster sugar
* 90g soft butter
* 2 large eggs
* 1 ½ lemons
Soften the gelatine in cold water until soft, remove from the water and squeeze out excess moisture.
Juice and zest the lemons and mix with the sugar, butter and eggs in a mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking continuously until the mix reaches 82C.
Add the softened gelatine to the heated mixture, continue to whisk until dissolved.
Pass the mix through a fine sieve to remove the lumps and lemon zest.
Chill in a metal bowl over ice.
Place in a piping bag or if you don’t have one a small plastic bag will do, tied in a knot at the top and with the bottom corner snipped off. Refrigerate if not using straight away
* 330ml double cream
* 45g caster sugar
* 2 vanilla pods
Split the vanilla pods in half by cutting down the middle with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into a mixing bowl with the cream and sugar.
Whisk until you have soft peaks, with a manual or electric whisk.
Refrigerate until required
* 600g strawberries, hulled (see above)
* 100ml champagne
* Thai basil leaves (this is the small leaved variety, preferably baby leaves which are finer and more delicate than the usual variety )
* Balsamic vinegar reduction or glaze
* Black pepper
Put the hulled strawberries into two freezer bags with the champagne or sparkling wine. Tie the bags so there is no air in them and leave at room temperature for two hours maximum. If you’re not ready to serve at this point remove the strawberries from the marinade, place on kitchen paper and keep in a cool place.
When you’re ready to serve, remove your set jellies from the fridge. Halve your strawberries and place around the centre of the jelly. Spoon some of the vanilla cream into the middle of the strawberries and pipe small mounds of lemon curd around the edge.
Using a pepper mill, grind a tiny amount of black pepper over the strawberries.
Put tiny dots of balsamic vinegar in between and delicately top the strawberries with the tiny basil leaves.
Repeat this process once or twice.
The lemon curd and the vanilla cream can also be made the day before.
If you’re short on time, you can substitute a good quality shop bought lemon curd for the homemade version .
Other fruits that can be macerated in the same way include ripe peaches and plums.
Many supermarkets now stock English sparkling wines. Specialist wine merchants, Loki, in Great Western Arcade ( www.lokiwine.co.uk ) have a great selection of English sparkling wines including the Nyetimber 2008 from Hampshire (£32.95), Camel Valley Rose from Cornwall (£34.95) and the Ancre Hills Estates Chardonnay Pinot Noir from Monmouthshire, (£29.99), are all worth trying. Waitrose ( www.watirose.com ) sells Balsamic Glaze in its Cooks Ingredients section (£1.99)
* Adam’s, 21A Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham, West Midlands B2 5QP. 0121 643 3745 www.adamsrestaurant.co.uk Twitter @restaurantadams. The restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays and will be closed for a summer break from July 23 until August 6.
* Have a go at this recipe and tweet pictures of your finished dish to @birminghampost
Kitchen Confidential with Adam Stokes
What’s your first food memory?
Fresh runner beans from my father’s allotment, so sweet and delicate, completely different to the ones you buy in the shops. My dad instilled in me the importance of cooking with real ingredients rather than taking shortcuts. On Friday nights the kitchen was his domain and no one including my mum was allowed in. He played loud music, had a few drinks and cooked the entire week’s meals in one go. As both he and my mother worked full time, it meant we had great food on the table every night.
Who taught you to cook?
Because of the emphasis on it at home, I had an interest in cooking from an early age and was always baking and creating recipes. After school I did two years at Stamford College and had various work placements. One of these was at Hambleton Hall (Oakham, Leicestershire) and led to my first professional job where Aaron Patterson taught me to cook properly.
Favourite TV dinner?
If I get to watch TV it’s always late at night and cheese and biscuits always go down nicely. I like Roquefort but always like to try different cheeses so I’ll ask the deli for recommendations.
Favourite food to eat?
I love all food, I don’t have a favourite. I do, however, always look for food to be treated in the best way possible, for example pizza needs to be fresh and crispy with quality toppings. I had one that was out of this world in a Rome pizzeria, a perfectly crisp thin base topped with artichokes, spinach and egg.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My wife. (Natasha, who is in charge of Front of House at Adam’s). We’ve worked together for six years and her passion for the business equals mine – even at home we’re always talking about work and developing ideas for the restaurant.
What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Chefs not performing to the best of their abilities and over flowery descriptions on menus. I think the food should speak for itself.
Apart from a knife, what’s your go to gadget?
I love a razor sharp Japanese mandolin but you have to be careful with them or you will have no fingers left!
Most memorable meals?
Noma in Copenhagen was an incredible experience – we had the full 30 course tasting menu and we were even served additional courses by Rene Redzepi’s development chefs as he likes to test potential new dishes on fellow chefs. Apart from the food, the service was second to none, that rare combination of immaculate and informal at the same time. In the UK, I like Restaurant Sat Bains (Nottingham), L’Enclume (Cumbria) and Vijante (Bethnal Green) for the same reason. The overall experience is always exceptional.
Last Saturday night when the induction plate set alight just before service.
I’d rather not say but royals and diplomats, film and soap stars have all sampled my food.