Retro: Strawberries Romanoff
'For strawberries bob, hob-nob with the pearls
of cream... like the curls of the dairy girls... ' Edith Sitwell, Facade,1922.
The strawberry bed in our kitchen garden is coming along nicely this year. The plants seem to love the warm and sunny, north-facing position and thick mulch of pea straw. Peter and I have planted a few new varieties to complement the cool climate, high-yielding Gauntlet. We buy our plants from a knowledgable chap at the Capital Region Farmer's Markets and he assures us that Tioga and Temptation (early season) are also good varieties.
My former neighbours and food-loving friends, Diana and Bryant, had an enviable strawberry patch once upon a time. Almost the entire front garden was planted out with strawberries and the exquisite sweet scent that hung in the air at the height of the season was enough to make you swoon.
Throughout history, strawberries have been valued for their therapeutic properties and were even thought to be a love potion — probably due to their rose-like fragrance. And speaking of love and romance, contrary to the opinion that the greatest couples of all time have been Hollywood icons (viz Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton/Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey), I ask you to consider the very best of unions (in culinary terms, that is): apple and cinnamon, basil and tomatoes, butter and toast, and, of course, strawberries and cream. Too yummy!
One very popular retro dish that, according to Stephanie Alexander, 'is rarely seen these days' is Strawberries Romanoff. None of my numerous food history titles make any reference to the origins of this dessert, which features on page 179 of The Cook's Companion (Lantern, 2004) and page 154 of the original Margaret Fulton Cookbook (which was first published in 1968). Alexander suggests that you simply 'macerate strawberries in fresh orange juice, a slosh of Cointreau and a little sugar for an hour (there should be only enough liquid to make the berries thoroughly moist). Fold through whipped cream and serve in pretty glasses'.
Margaret Fulton's version suggests rubbing 'lumps of sugar over the skins of oranges until they are well impregnated with the flavour of the fruit, then crush the sugar, wash and hull the strawberries. Macerate them in Curacao and sugar in a covered container in the fridge until serving time. Put into a serving bowl or individual dessert dishes in a pyramid shape. Put cream chantilly (the fancy name for cream whipped with sugar) into a piping bag with a rose or star tube and decorate the strawberries with rosettes of cream'.
Strawberries Romanoff a.k.a. 'a slightly more elegant version of strawberries and cream'. Simple, delicious and definitely still on the menu at my place! What's your favourite strawberry dish?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.