This week I saw the first British raspberries in the shops. Kent, in case you were wondering - I don't think ours up here are quite there yet. For a cook at my level, I find it hard to write inspiringly about soft fruit. The reason is very simple: when the natural product is sublime when served unadorned, save, perhaps, with a little ice cream or yoghurt or cream (if you must), what is the point in featuring it in elaborate recipes?
But if you are going to play about with soft red fruit, I think the rasp cuts it above the strawb. These days there is a welcome tendency to serve desserts which are less sweet than a generation ago. A strawberry without sweetness is a relatively poor thing, but the tartness of early season raspberries is an enormous attribute, which can be used to very good effect. This was a wee variation on a theme which I rustled up on a whim. We'll talk about the balsamic at the end. Adapt the coulis recipe according to how sweet you want it to be. I like mine quite sharp. When the raspberries are boiled down a bit, taste (very carefully, allowing your spoonful to cool first for fear of severe injury). Add more sugar if you like, and bubble the mixture gently until it melts.
Raspberries, Ice Cream, Yoghurt and Coulis Marbled Sauce
For the coulis (makes enough for 4+)
1 punnet raspberries (approx 225g); 2 - 3 tbsp caster sugar; juice of half a lemon; water
For the finished dish
Vanilla ice cream; plain yoghurt; raspberry coulis; raspberry infused balsamic vinegar pearls (so unobtainable as to be very optional indeed - see below); raspberries for topping.
Make the coulis in advance. Put the raspberries in a small pan with just enough water to cover. Add the sugar and the lemon juice. Heat gently until the sugar has melted then bring to the boil and cook, giving the occasional stir, until the fruit has broken down. Check for sweetness at this stage. If necessary add a little more sugar and allow to melt at a gentle heat. (Whenever you are melting sugar, start gently, otherwise it may crystallise.) If the coulis is too thick add a little more water.
Allow to cool slightly then blitz. A hand blender is useful, but make sure you have enough sauce to cover. I once created a wonderful stipple effect on our kitchen walls. Then force through a fine sieve to remove the pips. Allow to cool then refrigerate for an hour.
To serve, put some ice cream on a plate. In a shallow bowl or tray, pour some coulis on one side and some plain yoghurt on another. (You could use lightly whipped double cream if you prefer.) You want the lightest mix possible to maintain marbled effect. A swirl with a fork is quite good. Gently spoon the marbled mixture over the ice cream and top with strawberries.
Ah, you noticed I haven't mentioned that. I may write an article about this on its own right. I don't mean the balsamic vinegar that you pick up next to wine- and cider vinegar in the supermarket. I'm referring to Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, the glorious sweet and sour sticky liquid that takes 25 years to make. Balsamic vinegar as we know it is the good stuff that can take up to 40 years to mature. Check the label carefully - you are looking for the word tradizionale. Even in situ a little bottle will set you back at least 40€. Yesterday I saw a 100ml bottle for sale on Amazon for around £60. Aside from the price is is divine on ice cream or strawberries. I was fortunate to be the owner of an experimental jar from the Orodeal, raspberry infused balsamic pearls. That's the caviar like stuff in the photo. A digression, but why not?