In my book, asparagus and strawberries compete for the prize of the most welcome and delicious produce after an interminable winter. So, in a perfect world, for dinner I would feast on loads of asparagus (drowning in butter) as a main course, with eggy crêpes as a side, and for dessert one of the myriad of concoctions inspired by strawberries.
How to choose? If local strawberries are available—and I don’t mean Niagara Peninsula local, I mean really, really local and freshly picked at the peak of ripeness—then I would serve them, stems on, with a bowl of superfine sugar to dip them in. If I had oodles and oodles of time, I might spend a day making an Austrian “Spanische Windtorte (Spain and Austria had a close connection via the Hapsburgs, in case you were wondering) or, if I had less time, I might make its simpler cousin, a strawberry Pavlova. Recipes for either are all over the net.
But if I had neither time nor the best possible strawberries, I would make Strawberry Mousse—easy, failsafe, and quick as lightning.
When strawberries are out of season, use frozen ones—they have more flavour than the anemic and oversized ones available when the real thing is not in season.
It is important to use superfine sugar and not regular or icing sugar. The superfine variety will dissolve almost instantly, unlike regular sugar, and it will not give the cream or fruit a slightly starchy consistency, as icing sugar often does.
1 1/2 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen
4 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 to 1 1/2 cups whipping cream (34%), to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
A few strawberries and/or mint leaves for garnish, optional
If the strawberries are fresh, wash and drain them well. If you use frozen ones, thaw them first.
Purée the strawberries with a blender, a hand-held blender, or in a food processor, until smooth. Reserve.
In a bowl large enough to hold the strawberries and the whipped cream, whip the cream until very stiff, but take care not to turn it into butter. Stir in the vanilla essence.
Set aside 1/2 cup of the puréed strawberries. Add the remaining strawberry purée to the whipped cream and stir to mix well.
To serve, distribute the reserved 1/2 cup of purée among 4 parfait glasses or small bowls. Spoon the whipped cream and strawberry mixture on top. Garnish with berries and/or mint leaves as desired.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 hours.