In my neck of the woods, we don't have a gradual thaw when it comes to Winter. It arrives unannounced one fine day in November, when you feel a certain nip in the air. And then just like that, Winter disappears. You wake up, one day in March, to find the sun has gotten harsh and the days, uncomfortable and you know Summer is round the corner. If you know how much I love to hate the torrid, unbearable Indian Summer, then you know how much I am looking forward to the next three months!
And the change of weather signals the end of the strawberry season. So, I wistfully bid adieu to Winter with a simple dessert that celebrates this beautiful berry as it gets ready to leave the Indian markets.
The recipe I turn to is from Beatrice Peltre's beautiful, award-winning blog, La Tartine Gourmande. If you are familiar with the food blogging world, you would be well-acquainted with Bea's blog. I remember the first time I landed up at her blog, it would be a long time before I left. I was completely mesmerised by her stunning photography and her holistic approach to food with an emphasis on seasonal and fresh produce. I was charmed!
Come summer and one can see Bea work her magic with berries and other summer fruit. Time and again, in her posts, I would see her lightly steaming fruit in its own juices in a pouch placed in the oven. The technique is known as "en papillote" and I have seen it being used to mainly steam fish or vegetables. Seeing it being employed with fruit was a first.
This dessert is simple and more importantly, it hardly takes any time and effort. The strawberries are tossed with sugar and vanilla and then placed in a secure parchment-paper parcel and put in the oven for 20 minutes. Allowed to rest for ten minutes, the fruit is then served with vanilla ice-cream. I told you it was simple!!
The best part is the gentle waft of vanilla that creeps into your home while the fruit cooks in the oven. Steaming the fruit in its own juices tends to accentuate its taste and is a beautiful way to celebrate the fruit. The flavour of the vanilla does not burst through but instead provides this dessert with a certain 'je ne sais quoi', a certain elusive, indefinable, but definitely pleasing flavour. And it does not disappoint with the visual. The strawberries leach out a sticky and vibrantly red syrup that not only catches your eye but also threatens to stain everything it comes in contact with.
Looking back, I could have added a herb, like some mint leaves, that would have gone well with the strawberries. You can adapt this dessert with the any other fruit or condiments of your liking.
This dessert will captivate and at the same time, soothe all your senses. It is so beautiful in its simplicity that it is lyrical. It would be a pity to give it a miss!!
Strawberries en Papillote
- 150 gms strawberries, hulled and halved
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
- Vanilla ice-cream
- In a bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and the vanilla seeds and let it rest for 15 minutes. At this stage, do check if you would like to add more sugar if the strawberries are still tart for your liking.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C. Take a parchment paper with the dimensions of 15-inch x 12-inch.
- Place the strawberry mixture in the centre of the parchment paper.
- Fold the papillote lengthwise. And then secure the edges. Ensure that the papillote is well secured.
- Place the parcel on a baking tray and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes. Open the parcel and serve with vanilla ice-cream
- Note: You can serve the fruit straight out of the oven. I refrigerated half of it for later and it tasted as delicious.