The first time I ate a sweet strawberry was on a holiday in Aberdeen. They were picked up from Asda, the local supermarket, when I went grocery shopping with my cousins whom we were visiting. We were preparing breakfast in her kitchen the next day and I carelessly took a bite of the fruit that I had just finished washing up. I came to a halt jolted by an explosion of sweetness. I couldn’t stop wondering if this is how strawberries really tasted. I sat at the kitchen table, eyes still wide and expressed my disbelief to my cousin. We were visiting in March and she tells me that strawberries taste much better (Whaaat?! Better than this?) when they are in season.
On returning to Abu Dhabi, I’ve lost count of the number of boxes of strawberries I have brought home yearning for that same sweetness. That vacation was three years ago and I haven’t tasted anything like them. Last month I spotted a much robust gleaming red variety that hinted sweetness. They were packaged in a tiny wooden crate and I wanted to believe today I would be lucky. Deceptively sweet smelling, the sourness made my head throb. Or maybe it was the thought of how I would finish all these strawberries. I turned to the Internet with the responibilty of solving my dilemma. Food52’s homemade strawberry compote couldn’t have been more perfect for the situation.
This was a no recipe recipe which means there aren’t exact ingredients or directions. Just basic instructions which you can toy around with. It says lemon zest but I only had fresh oranges at hand. It mentions a splash of vinegar so I added Balsamic Vinegar while patting myself on the back for coming up with the idea all by myself. I really wish I had whole vanilla beans at hand and I resisted the urge of adding cinnamon and cloves as mentioned. I didn’t add any sugar in the beginning. I wanted to gauge the flavor of the compote and didn’t want to mask it with a sugar rush. Surprisingly as the compote cooked the tartness mellowed out and I could taste a hint of sweetness. A little close to a teaspoon was all the sugar I added to it.
Such a luscious outcome! And all under thirty minutes. When I walked into the kitchen to keep an eye on the simmering strawberries, the aroma wafting from the stove had me teleported to acres of lush fields as far as the eye could see. Ripe fruit gleamed under the sun waiting to be plucked. A few for the basket, a few to be enjoyed right there and then. I allowed myself to daydream a minute more under the whit fluorescent light and the cold tiles under my feet. Instantly I wanted to celebrate this compote and I decided I have to make pancakes.
Who knew Strawberry hulls could transform your tepid glass of water?
Well, I certainly didn’t. A link in this no-recipe page instructs to steep these tops from washed fruit in a jar full of water for a while. I let them steep their magic while I made the pancakes. I poured a glass for myself right after everything was laid on the table and took a sip. The infusion took me to the childhood voyages back to Kerala during the monsoons. As you step out of the flight, the smell of the ground freshly rained upon. It tasted exactly like that. A bit grassy was my husband’s comments. Probably not for everyone. It’s probably my frugal heart that was pleased nothing was going to the bin.
Blobs of soft butter and generously smeared compote, I stacked my pancakes and enjoyed a hearty breakfast for tea at 5 pm. In the following days, I added spoonfuls to my morning muesli and slathered it thickly on bread for my Peanut butter and Jelly snack. It didn’t take too long for my little jar to finish. Pancakes are still my favourite way to have this compote. I’d love to hear how you would enjoy it.
Recipe from Food52
10-15 Strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon Orange Zest
Desired sweetener – Maple Syrup, Jaggery or Sugar – to taste
Gather all the ingredients in a saucepan.
Simmer on a low heat till fruit breaks down.
Ensure fruit does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
Once the compote has reached desired thickness and consistency add the sweetener if you would like to.
After a final stir, take the saucepan off the heat.
Transfer to a clean glass jar and refrigerate only when compote has reached room temperature.
And here’s how you make your strawberry infused water,
Have a good food day.