Strawberry swan song: Hazelnut shortcakes and coulis with a hint of wild mint

Wimbledon is underway, even if summer isn’t and suddenly everything has turned strawberry, the number of strawberry-related posts popping up on my reader reaching a seasonal crescendo.  Here in North Uist, my strawberry crop is coming to an end, the glut has passed and just as I posted at the start of our strawberry season, here I celebrate the end with this more or less traditional (retro even) shortcake, crème patissière and strawberry coulis recipe, the coulis with the added dimension of pomegranate molasses and wild water mint (Mentha aquatica).

The strawberry season is all too short, but I feel satiated given our substantial crop this year.  I will be content to leave the joy of indulging in the heady sweetness of home-grown strawberries until next spring. I don’t grow enough to make jam and although I will not be tempted to eat the generally insipid supermarket strawberries fresh (even if they are British), I could be lured to make some jam if I have the chance to pick my own at a mainland farm or acquire a bumper bargain of British strawberries. Truth be told, I don’t much care for strawberry jam, but would make it for The Man Named Sous who does.  The one exception is wild strawberry conserve.  I had some delicious home made conserve when I was in Bulgaria a couple of years ago and no strawberry jam I have tasted can come close to that.

My strawberry crop has only been so good because it has been tucked up safe and warm in my small but productive tunnel.  The tomatoes, tomatillos, courgettes, cucumbers, dwarf beans and chillies are all looking very happy, flowering profusely indoors.  I keep my fingers crossed that there will be enough sun for equally copious fruiting.

We appear to have had our summer of a few erratic days of sunshine, with the long-term forecast now showing a familiar pattern of seasonally unsettled weather from gales (30-40 mph on Sunday past) to sideways smir and proper rain.  On the occasional still day a grey blanket of cloud envelopes the islands and the midges descend to devour us as we try to work outdoors.

Meanwhile, the low temperatures and frequent northerlies mean the outdoor vegetables are growing at an imperceptibly slow rate, about the speed of tectonic plates. Even our fly fishing outings have been dour, the trout sulking at the bottom of the lochs, rarely being tempted by the flies cast. All that said, there is at least the perception that it is summer if you are eating strawberries.

My micro veg

My micro veg

The first nasturtium bravely sticks its head above the parapet

The first nasturtium bravely sticks its head above the parapet

Beautiful Loch Bhrusda, Berneray

We did have a fantastic fly fishing outing to Loch Bhrusda on the island of Berneray, the most northern of the islands in the Uist island chain, now connected to North Uist by a causeway. Our fishing club visits this catch and release machair loch once a year. The loch holds some +6lb fish that put up an impressive fight, more like sea trout than brown trout, so it is usually a popular outing.

Fishing was slow and I was the lucky one who caught a lovely silvery 2 1/2 lb brown trout. Sometimes the fishing is secondary when you can enjoy such beautiful surroundings on a stunning day.  Of course, bright conditions are not good for fly fishing and the fish were lurking at the bottom.  I caught the fish along the deep north west shore, a place where I have had success in the past.

Bhruda's deep northern shore

Bhruda’s deep north west shore

The loch is interesting because has a clear demarcation from shallow to deep running longitudinally along the loch.  The transition gradient can clearly be seen in the photos and anglers usually wade out and cast over the shallow lip (about 1m deep) into deeper water where it is perceived most of the fish are.  While fishing along this edge, a startled trout of several pounds darted around my legs into the shallow area where I was standing! Interestingly, I have never caught a fish from this favoured area.

Transition from shallow to deep at Loch Bhrusda

Transition from shallow to deep at Loch Bhrusda

The Man Named Sous casts into the abyss

The Man Named Sous casts into the abyss

Wading back towards the south east shore

Wading back towards the south east shore

Although the late spring has meant the vegetation has been slow to get going, the Berneray machair looked spectacular on this visit.  After 3 1/2 hours without a bite, I decided to spend the last half hour of the outing wandering around the machair to look for bumblebees and hoverflies. The succession of machair flowers was still in quite an early phase with birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) dominating the grassland surrounding the loch. There were plenty of the rare moss carder bees (Bombus muscorum), but it was still too early for the much rarer great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) to be found.

bhrusda 3

Strawberries with hazelnut shortbread

This is a nice nostalgic dessert that provides sufficient decadence to be a fitting strawberry swan song. The hazelnut shortbread recipe is courtesy of Delia Smith and these are not at all sweet so the deliciously distinctive hazelnut flavour shines through, the ground rice ensuring crispness and a change from using semolina or polenta.  I found the dough a bit soft, even after resting, I would add a bit more flour (170g as opposed to150g) to provide a better dough texture that was less fragile but still nice and short

The crème patissière recipe is not my usual favoured Michel Roux recipe.  I decided to try Paul Hollywood’s version from his ‘How to Bake’ book. It was certainly easy to make but perhaps a bit on the soft side if the crème pat is to be used in dishes requiring a firm custard e.g. for making beignets.

The stock syrup included in the strawberry coulis was infused with a sprig of water mint.  This is superabundant in the marshy areas around the house just now.  A small amount of pomegranate molasses was added to give a different flavour dimension.

Hazelnut Shortbread biscuits

Preheat the oven to 180C

Ingredients

110g hazelnuts

150g butter

60g icing sugar

60g ground rice

170g plain flour

Method

  • Roast the nuts on an oven tray for 5 minutes, allow to cool and then blitz until fine in a food processor.
  • Cream the icing sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, gradually add the sifted flours, then the ground hazelnuts. rest in the fridge for several hours.
  • Roll out to about 5mm, cut rounds using a scone cutter (I used 8 cm) and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, allow to cool slightly before moving them onto a wire rack.

Crème patissière

Ingredients

100g caster sugar

4 medium eggs

40g cornflour

500 ml full fat milk

2 vanilla pods

40g butter

Method

  • Whisk the sugar, egg yolks and corn flour in a bowl until smooth.
  • In a pan, scrape out the vanilla pods and add them and their contents to the milk.  Bring the milk to the boil and remove from the heat.
  • Pour about a quarter of the milk over the yolk/flour mixture and scrape everything back into the pan.
  • Heat gently until the mixture thickens then remove from the heat.
  • Pass through a sieve into a bowl and stir in the butter.
  • Place some greaseproof paper directly over the crème as it cools to stop a skin forming (the butter helps too).  Cool and chill until required.

Strawberry, water mint and pomegranate molasses coulis

water mint

Begin by making a stock syrup simply by boiling 150g caster sugar and 120 ml water together with a sprig of water mint (or other mint species available) for 3 minutes. Leave this to cool with the mint infusing in it and remove sprig just before using.

Ingredients

50ml stock syrup

200g hulled strawberries

1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses

2 water mint leaves

juice of 1/4 lemon

Method

  • Simply blitz all the ingredients in a food processor and pass through a fine sieve.

Assembling the dish

This is straightforward piling of strawberries on a biscuit, followed by a generous dollop of crème pat and coulis, topped with another biscuit, more crème and a whole fresh strawberry.

strawberry 1

strawberry 2

And finally…

No summer barbecue would be complete without the classic strawberry tart, made with pâte sucrée case lined with dark chocolate, filled with crème pat, a layer of passion fruit curd and topped with apricot jam-glazed strawberries and blueberries.  Adios amigos, until next year…

strawberry sunset

A close call as Hector moves in for the kill...

A close call as Hector moves in for the kill…

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45 thoughts on “Strawberry swan song: Hazelnut shortcakes and coulis with a hint of wild mint

  1. I’ve never heard of water mint. Could you explain a bit? I have to say that however tempting your strawberries shortbreads look (and they look great!) the idea of a strawberry tart with a passionfruit curd sounds unbearably good. Ken

    • Thank you! Mentha aquatica is a native wild mint species found across most of the UK, Europe and parts of Asia/Africa. It grows in water or marshy areas and can also hybridise with a number of other native mint species, e.g. with spearmint (M. spicata) to produce peppermint it can be quite invasive and there is a plentiful supply in and around the wet areas of my garden and it is my preferred culinary mint, although the intensity of the flavour can be variable. Re-the tart, the dark chocolate seals it (literally) for me!

  2. What a beautiful post. I love reading your stories about life in Uist, and the shortbreads look delicious. A beautiful homage to strawberries (we still have tons, and I am not yet sick of them).

  3. Amazing photos – the water is so clear!
    Our strawberry season is in full-swing right now, so your recipe will get put to good use…though on Sunday we’ll be doing plain pound cake, with berries and cream, as my Darling Daughter has requested for her birthday 🙂

  4. Thank you for informative, beautiful and delicious post. I appreciated your response on mentha aquatica/water mint above. I love mint and use it quite a bit in my cooking. In this one year of blogging, I learned so much more about kinds of mint, and this is one of them.

  5. As always Tracey, you make life on the remotest parts of the UK seem enviable. Great tales of fishing (I am not a fisherman but still like to hear them) and delicious ingredients for some very desirable looking deserts.
    If you ever fancy a change of career, I am certain that you would do well with a seasonal tea rooms, offering those mouth -watering concoctions!
    I also grow mint, in a raised bed, but only use it for flavouring potatoes, or making mint sauce. I couldn’t begin to tell you what sort of mint it is, but it does grow like wildfire!
    Regards to you as always from Norfolk. Pete. x

  6. We have the most repulsive strawberries here in Spain – great flavourless monsters grown in miles of poly tunnels. Oh for a beautiful English strawberry and some of your hazlenut shortcakes!

    • Thank you so much but what a disappointment that you can only access ‘waterballs’, although even our own commercial strawberries, also grown under plastic across swathes of Scotland can be very hit or miss too.

  7. I’m simply drooling reading this post! Bookmarking this recipe, particularly for the amazing sounding coulis. I have some pomegranate molasses in the cupboard left over from another recipe and I’ve been wondering what to do with it. Now I know!

  8. That’s a pretty impressive-looking recipe to finish off the strawberry harvest! If you’re wanting to make some jam, Sarah Raven has a recipe that uses a mixture of cultivated and alpine strawberries. – it may not compare to Bulgarian wild strawberry conserve, but it’s still way better than anything you can buy.

  9. I’m sad the strawberries are leaving us yet again too, but we have the raspberries to keep us company for the time being. Until next year I guess! These treats look incredible! Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way.

  10. Well, shortbread and hazelnuts have to be two of my favourite things. You would probably find me skulking off somewhere with the entire tin of them – and I wouldn’t care to leave any!
    – Until next year…surely not :/

  11. I’ve made pistachio shortbread, but this sounds even better, especially with roasting the hazelnuts. I’ve learned in a puddings & pastries course that it’s better to roast the nuts but have to admit I was too lazy and skipped that step. Will definitely try now, though. And your coulis sounds delicious, too. Great combination of all the things I happen to like.

  12. Just about an hour ago, I finished off the last of the strawberries, bought last Saturday at the farmers market. We are in the middle of the season and there will be plenty for a few more weeks. Your hazelnut shortbread biscuits sound good and the dessert you created with them looks special, something any dinner guest would love to see brought to the table — until that strawberry tart appeared. 🙂

  13. Another lovely post. I really enjoy the photos of your scenery and life. I have never heard of the mint that you write about here in NZ but I am certainly going to ask about it in the garden centre..Keep the blog post coming please.

  14. Your tarts looks delicious! I was curious of the ground rice that used in the dough of the shortbread, is it a rice flour? We are still getting local strawberries but the season is expected to be shorter than normal this year.

  15. Food looks great Tracey, as do the photos! Gad to hear the poly tunnels are holding up well. I’m looking to get some raised beds in once the remaining half of the garden is free of concrete. Will have to buy the plants in though – a little late for seeds this year :-/

  16. You had me with the strawberry shortcakes and then you made strawberry tart!
    Insipid is the right word for supermarket strawberries – I’m lucky to have a farmer (at the market) who grows some absolutely delicious ones – probably nearly as good as yours 😉

  17. Your shortbread looks gourmet and incredible. And your garden is looking great too. I can even plant strawberries over here. Fly fishing. I would really love to find a chance to learn. 🙂

  18. I thoroughly enjoyed going on your outing…it looks like it was a nice day. Both of your delicious strawberry treats sound like a perfect way to end your strawberry season. You could have been describing our weather here in Maine. The tomatoes are far behind because of hardly any sun.

  19. Such a lovely homage to summer and those fresh flavours of mint & berries. Actually it looks so warm and calm by those lochs, something I don’t always assume with UK weather. That last dish with the berries and your four footed friend reminds me of those great summer evenings when the afternoon light is good and nights are balmy.

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