Got too many berries going soggy? Mango salsa, meringues or using halloumi, the Dinner Doctor does a delicious rescue act
"Inconceivable!" exclaims criminal boss, Vizzini in the classic film, The Princess Bride, when faced with a dilemma that he doesn't like the sound of. "Inconceivable!" say Live Better commenters when they learn of this week's leftovers challenge. Who on earth has leftover summer berries? "Inconceivable!" I think as I mull over the problem.
What kind of idiot has leftover or over-ripe berries? Well, that would be this idiot; suckered again by the 2-for-1 offers promoted by markets and supermarket. It is just too tempting to buy so much: the berries look so pretty, juicy and vibrant, yet I rarely seem to be able to use them all up before some of them are past their best. Obviously this is a problem partly of my own making (greed) and the intrinsic condition of summer berries - they have a relatively short shelf-life.
And it seems it's not just me. Emma Marsh of Love Food Hate Waste says: "Interestingly, they are also one of the top leftover foods people say they frequently throw away as they go off before they can use them."
Clearly there are a few things you can do to prevent berry waste, apart from not buying so many in the first place. I don't really like to put them in the fridge as chilling seems to subdue their flavour; they are best served (and tasted) at room temperature. However, as with my salad leaves from last week's leftover recipes column, I layer my berries between kitchen paper or fine cheesecloth in a plastic storage container, before putting them in the fridge. I always store strawberries in an airtight container as their aroma can "taint" other things in the fridge, such as open cartons of milk. I don't rinse strawberries or raspberries either until just before I am going to eat them, otherwise they will become soggy.
1. Halloumi cheese with strawberry vinaigrette
I love using strawberry or raspberry vinaigrettes on savoury salads, particularly ones that contain avocado or tangy cheese. But I particularly like using this sweet and sour dressing with fried halloumi or "squeaky cheese" as it is known at my house.
1 halloumi cheese, cut into slices about 5mm thick
salad leaves, to serve
200g fresh strawberries (or raspberries)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove, very finely chopped (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
fresh thyme leaves
Tip all the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender and whizz up until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Heat a little vegetable oil in a hot frying pan. Place the halloumi slices into the pan; fry for about 1 minute on each side until golden brown.
Serve hot halloumi immediately with the fruit vinaigrette. (Halloumi needs to be eaten hot as it becomes tough and chewy on cooling.)
2. Strawberry mango salsa
I first ate strawberries in a savoury salad while I was working in the US many years ago. Strawberries with a salad dressing and lashings of black pepper were a novel and delicious experience. My tiny mind was well and truly blown.
100g strawberries, diced
1 mango, diced
1 mild green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 tbsp red onion, diced
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp light brown sugar
half tsp ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
Mix the lime juice with sugar and ground cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, mango, chilli and a little red onion. Carefully stir through the lime dressing and the chopped coriander.
3. Raspberry sauce meringues
Stirring some gloopy raspberry sauce into meringue batter before baking gives the meringues a pretty pink swirl pattern and a fruity treat to bite into. I like to use the sauce with ice cream sundaes too.
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
Meringues (adapted from the fabulous Meringue Girls' recipe):
5 egg whites
300g caster sugar
Make the raspberry sauce the day before using, as it will need time to cool.
Heat the water in a saucepan and add the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is a little syrupy. Add the raspberries and cook for 1 minute. Set aside to cool a little before whizzing up in a blender until smooth. Sieve to remove the pips. Set aside to cool completely.
Preheat oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Line a large baking sheet and a deep baking tray with baking parchment.
Tip the caster sugar onto the baking parchment in the deep baking tray. Bake for up to 5 minutes until the outer edges of the sugar looks as if it is melting. Heating the sugar is what makes the meringue look glossy when cooked. Don't overcook as you will end up with chunks of crisp sugar.
Turn the oven down to 140C/Gas Mark 1.
Put the egg whites into a large non-plastic mixing bowl - the bowl should be as clean and grease-free as possible.
Whisk the eggs with an electric hand-held whisk or in a mixer, until they hold soft peaks.
Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until all the sugar has dissolved and the meringue mixture is thick and glossy-looking, forming stiff peaks.
Add enough raspberry syrup to swirl through the egg white mixture. (I used a wooden skewer to achieve the marbled effect.)
You can pipe your meringues onto the baking sheet using a piping bag. I am afraid I cheated and dolloped my mixture into paper muffin cases.
Bake for about 30 minutes at 140C/Gas Mark 1. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 120C/Gas Mark half and bake for another 30 minutes.
Set the meringues on a wire rack to cool. Your meringues will be crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle.
Serve with sweetened whipped double cream and fresh raspberries.
Some other ideas for using up ripe strawberries and raspberries:
4. Emma Marsh of Love Food Hate Waste suggests freezing berries instead of using ice cubes in your summer drinks. Wash the berries and place them in the compartments of an ice cube tray and then freeze.
5. Louisa Foti of Eat Your Veg has these lovely berry and banana yo pops (ice cream made with yoghurt and fruit); perfect for all the family!
6. Chocolette of Chocolate Log Blog makes these lovely raspberry and white chocolate friands, with just a handful of ripe raspberries.
7. Siobhan McGuinness of Vohn's Vittles gets you in the mood for carnival with her strawberry, melon and mint sucos - a little taste of Rio and the perfect refresher on a hot day.
8. Galina Varese of Chez Malinka makes these elegant elderflower cordial and prosecco jellies with raspberries and rose petals.
9. Karen Burns-Booth of Lavender and Lovage makes strawberry trifle pots stuffed full of fruit, amaretti biscuits and cream - a twist on the old classic.
10. For the more adventurous of you, Vanesther Rees of Bangers & Mash makes these enchanting millefeulles with summer berries.
11. You can't talk about raspberries without mentioning the Scottish classic cranachan. Janice Pattie of Farmersgirl Kitchen makes this delightful iced version.
12. I know cupcakes have been done to death, but I really enjoyed these little cakes iced with strawberry buttercream, served with macerated strawberries and kirsch.
13. Now most people would assume that you need a glut of fruit to make strawberry jam. But Camilla Hawkins of Fab Food 4 All shows how to make her prize-winning jam with just a punnet!
14. Fruit and booze - what's not to like? The velvet slipper cocktail is my favourite way of getting some of my five-a-day!
15. And talking of booze, Kavita Favelle of Kavey Eats infuses vodka with strawberries. This delicious liqueur means you can enjoy summer all year around.
16. Claire Thomson of 5 O'Clock Apron makes strawberry fruit leather with her children - a winning lunchbox treat. (It may be time-consuming, but it is definitely worth the wait!)
17. Another recipe for the more adventurous is Kristl and Rachel of Sustainably Queer's fermented strawberry vinegar from scratch.
Do you add summer berries to scones, cakes or muffins? What about refreshing berry lemonade or adding a few berries to summer sangria or a boozy cocktail? Ice cream, sorbet or granita? A berry fool or syllabub? Or do you have an interesting savoury way of using up strawberries and raspberries?
Rachel Kelly is the Guardian home cook of the year 2013. Read more on her website or follow her on Twitter @MarmadukeS.
Interested in finding out more about how you can live better? Take a look at this month's Live Better challenge here.
The Live Better Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.
Raspberry meringues. Photograph: Rachel Kelly