What can I make with a glut of mushy berries? | Summer food and drink

What can I do with overripe berries?
Emma, Bradford
Sweet, juicy berries are one of the best things about summer, but they can quickly turn squishy. Providing there’s no mould, Emma’s first option is to bake them. “You absolutely want to be throwing them into the likes of financiers, friands, a bakewell tart or even a berry tart topped with crème patissière,” says Philip Khoury, author of A New Way to Bake, published next month. The reason being, as berries age, “the fibre that gives them their tight and regular structure starts to give, but their flavour becomes sweeter, because the carbohydrates break down into sugar”. So, while the fruit’s texture might be compromised, “it is sweeter and, once baked, will turn nice and jammy”.

By the same logic, you can’t go far wrong with a crumble, either. “Get some apples in with the berries, then toss in sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon,” says Crystelle Pereira, author of Flavour Kitchen. How you then make your topping is entirely up for grabs: “Have it oat-based and add coconut oil for more of a breakfast crumble, or use sesame seeds, desiccated coconut or cornflakes for texture.” Nuts, too, are very much encouraged: “Flaked almonds go well with berries, as do cashews or pistachios with strawberries.” (The latter, Pereira adds, “looks really, really good”.)

The bounty of summer berries also coincides neatly with the need to chill. “Freezing is a great way to lock in their quality before they turn completely,” Khoury says. Freeze the berries whole, just as they are, or, Pereira suggests, “cook them down into a compote with a bit of lemon or lime juice and some sugar”. If strawberries are in play, she might add cardamom and ginger, while other berries might get a sprinkling of chai spice blend (cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, black pepper). “Store some compote in a jar and have it with your breakfast with yoghurt and granola, and put the rest in a zip-lock bag or ice-cube tray and freeze.”

Of course, frozen berries also mean dessert. Oli Brown, chef/co-owner at Updown, near Deal, Kent, purees them pre-freeze for “when you want amazing ripe fruit in winter for a souffle”, or, more pressingly, for ice lollies and sorbets.

Also guaranteed to bring joy is a frozen berry negroni. “It’s such a genius idea from Billy Stock of The Rose Inn [also in Deal],” Brown says. “We’re going to serve a vodka-strawberry lolly when people arrive this summer – it’s a fun way to use fruit that can’t necessarily be used on the plate.” The same goes for shrubs, or drinking vinegars, which are equally at home in cocktails as they are in soft drinks. “Infuse vinegar, sugar and water with the berries in equal amounts, then leave to sit in the fridge for a couple of days,” says Brown, who might also throw in lemon verbena, rosemary, thyme or mint. Strain, and you’re good to go.

Salads, meanwhile, might welcome a raspberry dressing, Brown says, “although it is a bit retro”. Another savoury solution would be to pickle berries or cherries, which, again, could be eaten with leaves or, say, mackerel or roast duck: “After all, fruit and meat, and fruit and fish are A Thing.”


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