Not three, not four but five recipes this week – a testament to the versatility and downright deliciousness of the English summer cherry. My fingernails are stained and my apron well-worn, and I think I’ve pitted a grand total of two kilograms of cherries in the making of this newsletter, and I’ve had a lot of fun.
It’s a bit of a culinary journey, this one. We start with some Eastern European influences in a Chilled Cherry Soup with Sour Cream and Dill, in a vague throwback to the much-missed Gay Hussar restaurant in Soho. It’s a tart, tingly, vodka-spiked dish that could be a lunch or it could be a dessert, who knows?
I’ve also been fantasising about serving this warm, swapping the vodka for a brandy or Cointreau, and losing the sour cream in flavour of floating scoops of vanilla ice cream, melting into the cherries…
Then onto Aleppo, for an inauthentic take on the Kebab b’il Karaz, or lamb kofte in a mouth-puckering cherry sauce. It’s supposed to be made with washneh sour cherries, which should be harvested in June around the ancient city, but for one reason or another I haven’t quite done that yet. So instead I left the cherries to macerate in lemon juice and added pomegranate molasses to the sauce, which is probably totally wrong but seemed to do a trick. If you pile the kofte and sauce onto slightly toasted flatbreads, the juices soak through the bread and it’s delightful. I’m saving this recipe for repeated future use.
We’re then taking a U-turn slingshot back to Europe, with a riff on a Portuguese ginjinha. I’ve never been to Portugal, but two honeymooners brought me back a bottle of this potent sweet cherry booze last year and I’ve been desperate to try making it for Christmas. So I’m simply calling this Christmas Cherry Liqueur. I had a great time mixing this concoction in the August sunshine, and with a few shakes and a few months I’m hoping it will be ready and perfect for cocktails in Advent. Watch this space.
Finally, we’re cosying up back at home in London with a Cherry Curd Bakewell Tart and its offcuts turned into Cherry, Almond and White Chocolate Cookies for a last-minute treat for a friend’s birthday party. I spent a frustrating and sticky Sunday morning making the cherry curd and pastry, neglecting each in favour of the other and smearing cherry juice and sugar all over my face, hair and kitchen floor – but this was worth it. I ran out of eggs for the frangipane so made a water-and-honey-based almond paste, which worked just fine.
Use the leftover curd to fill espresso cups for an elegant dessert, or pop it in ramekins, scatter with sugar and blowtorch for a riff on a creme brulee.
Any favourite cherry recipes out there?
*This is indeed a fudged reference to the iconic Garbage song