“Mum, do you know what I really, really want?” our youngest son (aged 8 and 1/4) asked recently.
“What’s that?” I enquired.
“Squirty cream, so I can squirt it right into my mouth!” he laughed.
“Um….. ok?!” I chuckled, “I’ll see what I can do.”
So when I next went to the village shop and spied a giant punnet of Scottish strawberries on offer, I remembered my son’s desire for squirty cream and took the notion of making some strawberry shortcakes for our Sunday picnic.
Of course they couldn’t just be ordinary strawberry shortcakes, like the ones I grew up with (Cape Breton baking powder biscuits sweetened with a little bit of sugar and topped with berries and fresh cream), no, I had to jazz things up a bit with some good quality Italian balsamic vinegar and decent sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.
If you didn’t already know, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and fresh strawberries are a food combination made in heaven. Honestly, try it – just slice your berries, drizzle over some vinegar (good stuff though, not cheap supermarket stuff) and sprinkle over some fresh black pepper (again, none of that powdery awful dried stuff – use freshly ground pepper). You’ll be a convert, promise!
My strawberry shortcake base was made with some sprouted wheat flour, a new flour that’s taking the baking community by storm. The wheat grains are soaked for 24 hours before being allowed to sprout for five days and then the whole thing is milled like regular flour is. The theory is that this flour is easier to digest and packed full of more nutrients than regular flour, and it certainly does make for a rather fantastic shortcake base. Look out for sprouted wheat flour in your nearest wholefoods store.
Our fishing pond picnic strawberry shortcakes were served with the squirty cream (pictured above), much to our son’s delight. The strawberries with the balsamic and black pepper syrup were really easy to transport in our picnic basket too. The shortcake bases just needed slicing, a spoonful of berries and syrup added and then topped with a generous squirt of cream.
I can also attest that any leftover syrup works really well in a berry pie filling – just cut up loads of mixed berries and sprinkle with plenty of sugar, to taste, heat in a pan until the berries begin to break down and thicken the whole mixture with cornflour dissolved in some water. Use to fill your favourite pie crust and bake. Delicious!
At home though, in our garden picnic, I served the strawberry shortcakes with some whipped Scottish double cream, sweetened with a little bit of homemade vanilla sugar.
To make your own vanilla sugar, once you’ve used the seeds from the pod in your recipe pop the pod itself into a jar and fill with some caster sugar. Leave it there for a few weeks and the pod will infuse the sugar with a gorgeous vanilla flavouring.
If you don’t have vanilla sugar simply replace it for regular caster sugar in the recipe and add a half teaspoonful of vanilla bean paste.
All in all, this makes for a rather fantastic summer picnic recipe. Do let me know if you try it!
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