Here in Melbourne, it’s early in the fifth week of a tough, six-week lockdown, which was imposed by our State Government to suppress a severe Covid-19 outbreak. We can venture out no further than 5km from our home and only for a short list of purposes. One of our favourite activities – travel planning – has become an exercise in futility, all the more so because residents of Melbourne are very unwelcome in other Australian states.
Unsurprisingly, Maggie and I have been spending even more time than usual in our kitchen, as we work to ward off the mental demons let loose by confinement and boredom. (Our other main tactic is to tackle interesting-but-challenging jigsaw puzzles.)
One of the new dishes we have made during ‘lockdown’ was inspired by the bumper crop of flavoursome strawberries coming to us from coastal parts of southern Queensland, which enjoy berry-friendly weather when we are shivering our way through winter.
The dish is strawberry shortcake, which is commonly associated with the United States. Other cuisines match strawberries with scones, eg England, feature them in tarts, eg France, or, in Australia, pile them onto a pavlova. And, of course, a fresh, ripe strawberry is a pleasure, per se. I sometimes enjoy a few as an after-lunch palate-cleanser!
Anyway, back to the shortcake.
We looked at various recipes before finding one that suited us, albeit subject to several modifications. Here’s how it turned out, followed by our recipe.
250g ripe strawberries, hulled
2 tsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier
120g plain flour
30g almond meal
60ml caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
- Cut strawberries into pieces about 2cm x 2cm in size and place them in a bowl. Add the liqueur, stir gently and leave to macerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Line the base of four 11cm non-stick flan tins with baking paper.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Using a fork, whisk the egg in a small bowl.
- Preheat oven to 170C.
- Melt the butter over low heat and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir well to combine.
- Add about half of the whisked egg to the bowl, mix to combine and, if necessary, add a little more of the egg to form a soft, even dough.
- Transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and divide into four portions. Trim 5-10% of each portion, dust with some extra flour and set aside.
- Flatten each portion by hand, transfer them to the flan tins and spread the dough to the edges.
- By hand, distribute the pieces of macerated fruit across the dough, taking care not to overcrowd them (see photo below).
- Dot each tin with crumbled pieces of the reserved dough.
- Place tins on a baking tray and place on the lowest shelf in the oven.
- Bake for 20-23 minutes, turning tins if necessary for even cooking, until dough is beginning to turn golden brown at the outer edges.
- Transfer tins to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before separating the cakes from the tins and returning to the rack.
- Serve at room temperature, with or without a dash of cream.
And here is the second jigsaw puzzle we completed during lockdown: a truncated version of The Kiss by the famous Viennese artist Gustav Klimt.
Cheers for now!