Celebrate spring

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By Jan Bilton

I have been waiting expectantly for the season’s first strawberries. Now they’re here and although I’m delighted I can now savour a favourite fruit, I find the first berries are often a little tangy and are best enjoyed in smoothies, sauces and bakes. It’s summer when they are at their peak — nature’s healthy nibbles.

Firm berries should be stored at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop. When fully ripe, store in a single layer in a paper towel-lined shallow container — covered — in the fridge.

Asparagus is popping up all over and the two — asparagus and strawberries — are an excellent combo in salads (try adding some crisp bacon too) and drizzled with Hollandaise or a good vinaigrette.

Store asparagus wrapped in damp paper towels in the fridge. If the base of the asparagus stems are tough, peel with a vegetable knife before use. Many cooks believe that thin spears are more tender than thick ones. However, tenderness is usually related to colour — the greener or purpler or whiter the better.

STRAWBERRY GIN ICE CREAM

If using a metal loaf pan, line it with baking paper.

Spring things – strawberry gin ice cream

2 cups washed, hulled and quartered strawberries

1/4 cup caster sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup gin

1.5 litres vanilla ice cream

Place the strawberries in a saucepan with the caster sugar and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes, until softened.

Purée with a hand-held blender, until smooth. Stir in the gin. Cool.

Allow the ice cream to soften slightly.

Spoon 1/3 of the ice cream evenly over the base of a 1.5 litre loaf pan. Pat down with the back of the spoon. Drizzle with 1/4 of the cold purée. Repeat the layers twice. Using a chopstick, swirl the coulis through the ice cream. Cover and freeze overnight.

Serve in slices or scoops together with the remaining purée and a few fresh strawberries — if preferred. Serves 8.

  • Jan Bilton is an award-winning, professional food writer. For more of her recipes visit her website here.

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