Most Australians are very fond of strawberries; Maggie and I are active members of this majority. We use them in several ways: with meringues, on a cheese and cream tart, in a fruit salad with banana and fresh pineapple, with passionfruit and ice cream and, for the last year or so, in a dessert known as Strawberries Romanoff.
The original version of this delicious dessert was created by the great French chef Escoffier. It was later popularised by a Los Angeles restaurateur of Lithuanian descent, who had given himself the surname Romanoff, as if he was a member of the family of the last Russian Tsar.
We have added a base of orange-infused sponge finger biscuits to the usual version, in the manner of tiramisu. If you would prefer to make this without alcohol, you could just use more orange juice but you will need to add a little bit – 1 to 2 teaspoons – of caster sugar to make the dish sweet enough. (And my apologies for lame pun in the title of this post.)
300g ripe strawberries, hulled
60ml Cointreau or Grand Marnier
80ml orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp finely grated orange zest (optional, taste first, discard if lacking flavour)
4 sponge finger biscuits (savoiardi)
150mg mascarpone (or thick cream)
1 tbsp icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
- Cut smaller strawberries in half lengthways; cut larger ones crossways into thick slices. Place strawberry pieces in a bowl, add 40ml of the liqueur, 30ml of the orange juice and the orange zest, stir to combine then cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours, stirring gently once or twice.
- Remove the strawberry mix from the fridge. Arrange the four biscuits on the base of a flat-bottomed, straight-sided dish that will fit the biscuits snugly (break the biscuits into smaller pieces as necessary). Combine the remaining 20ml of liqueur and 50ml of orange juice and drizzle evenly over the biscuits.
- Next, gently beat the mascarpone (or cream), icing sugar and vanilla extract together.
- Gently fold the mascarpone into the strawberries then spoon the mixture onto the biscuits. Refrigerate for about one hour before serving.
- You can make this a day ahead of serving, giving the flavours more time to inter-mingle.