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Ingredient of the week: cherries

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16 JUNE 2010

There are few fruits so full of colour, vibrancy and taste as the cherry. An explosive little gem, they pop purposefully when cooked, staining their surroundings.

Choose firm fruit, exceptionally dark in hue - ‘the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice’ - unless you opt for the exquisite English variety Royal Ann that look like rhubarb and custard sweets.

When dried they are gorgeous when reconstituted in red wine as a sauce for duck or tossed through a slaw or couscous. They are vivid, tart and chewy, but soften in a warm sauce, adding that piquancy a rich meat like duck calls out for.

Eaten since prehistoric times, they are still hugely popular today. Eat them with soft, ashen goat’s cheese after dinner (or try them pickled, Skye Gyngell's excellent recipe here), in a traditional clafoutis, soaked in cherry brandy in the bottom of a chocolate mousse or stirred through Greek yogurt with icing sugar and vanilla.

Ultimately though, their best companion is a rustling brown paper bag and a quiet spot to sit in the sunshine.

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