Although less ubiquitous than its sister the strawberry, the raspberry’s tart undertone gives it a starring role when paired with flattering flavours. Russell Brown reports
Raspberry vinegar, the odd recipe for something strange like chicken and raspberries or a Brie and raspberry toasted sandwich are about the limit of the raspberry’s use in savoury dishes, according to an internet search. This is fairly unusual as fruits go, as so many often have such varied uses in savoury cooking.
But the scarcity of savoury dishes by no means makes the raspberry a second-rater. Its use in sweet dishes is about as strong as it gets and it pairs well with many other ingredients – elderflower, chocolate, mint, lychee, pistachio and vanilla are among the most popular.
The commercial cultivation of raspberries takes place all across the UK, with Scotland particularly renowned for its fruit. In the late 1950s, a steam train called the Raspberry Special used to run between Scotland and London, transporting fruit to Covent Garden.
I recently visited the New Forest Fruit Company in Hampshire, where raspberries are a secondary crop to the 4,000 tonnes of strawberries the business produces annually. The raspberries are grown in polytunnels, using primocane (autumn-fruiting) varieties, such as Paragon and Ovation. The canes on the plants are pruned in such a way as to give two crops a year, with summer fruit appearing on year-old canes and autumn fruit on new canes. The time from flowering to fruiting is around 60 days, and the crop needs to be picked daily, making it fairly labour-intensive.
Raspberries come in a variety of colours. As well as the usual red, they come in yellow, orange, purple and black. All varieties should be picked fully ripe as the fruit doesn’t continue to ripen after picking, but commercially raspberries are picked before their full colour is achieved to avoid the fruit arriving in a weeping condition. The fruit is cooled from an average picking temperature of 25°C to 5°C in around 45 minutes to prevent spoilage.
The raspberry is believed to have originated in eastern Asia and its Latin name is Rubus idaeus. The fruit is high in vitamin C and particularly high in dietary fibre, containing 6.5g per 100g of raw fruit.
As far as the chef is concerned, raspberries are primarily used in sweet dishes and the whole fruit is mainly used raw, jam being the primary exception. Classics that come to mind are cranachan, soufflé, shortcake, charlotte and sorbet, but the fruit is also used in much more innovative ways. Modern pâtisserie products include raspberry powders, freeze-dried fruits and crisp raspberry pieces coated in cocoa butter so they can be included in dishes containing moisture. Fruit leathers, coulis and pâte de fruits are good ways for chefs to use overripe or excess fruit.
Kieran Smith, head chef at the Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, has a pre-dessert of raspberries, elderflower pannacotta and meadowsweet ice-cream, while Mark Hartstone at La Fosse in Dorset favours a classic summer fruit pudding laden with raspberries.
Buying and storage tips
• Raspberries should be kept chilled, ideally around 5°C.
• Only wash berries when you are ready to use them.
• The full flavour will be much more apparent at room temperature.
• Whole berries can be open-frozen for later use in dishes that require crushed or puréed berries.
Early English raspberries arrived on the market this year in very late May. The quality wasn’t the best, but the flavour was beautiful!
Raspberries will improve in quality and size over the coming few weeks as the season gets into full swing. English raspberries cost between 80p and £1.40 for a 125g punnet.The season will finish around September, depending on the weather.
Over the next few months, I will be featuring globe artichokes and fennel in Home-grown Harvest. Do let me know how you use these products on your menus and what your seasonal favourites are. Email recipes, dish suggestions and photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org
Raspberry ripple ice-cream with oat and white chocolate cookies
Makes four ice-cream cookie sandwiches
For the ice-cream
450ml double cream
375ml semi-skimmed milk
2 vanilla pods
160g free-range egg yolks
150g caster sugar
For the raspberry ripple
200g fresh raspberries
50g caster sugar
For the cookies
75g unsalted butter
30g golden syrup
75g caster sugar
75g self-raising flour
3g baking powder
15ml semi-skimmed milk
40g white chocolate chunks (4-5mm), plus 40g for topping
Combine the cream and milk in a heavy-based pan. Split the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds, and add the pods and the seeds to the cream mix. Bring to a simmer, whisk well and turn off the heat. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar, reheat the cream mix and pour onto the yolks, whisking constantly. Return to the pan and place over a moderate heat. Bring the custard to 80°C, stirring constantly in a figure of eight motion as well as in circles around the outside edge of the pan. Once the custard is cooked, pass it through a fine mesh sieve into a clean plastic container. Chill over ice, add the glycerine and refrigerate overnight.
Purée the raspberries with the sugar and pass through a fine chinois into a small pan. Reduce the liquid until it is the consistency of thick double cream and then remove from the heat and whisk in the glycerine.
The following day, churn the vanilla custard in an ice-cream machine. Once churned, transfer to a plastic container.
Put the raspberry coulis in a squeeze bottle with an opening 2-3mm wide and use it to inject pockets of coulis into the ice-cream and then ripple with a skewer. Freeze until required.
For the cookies, melt the butter and syrup together, then beat in the sugar, oats, flour and salt. Mix the baking powder with the milk and beat it into the dough. Mix through 40g chocolate chunks. Divide the mix into eight balls and place on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly, bake at 160°C for two or three minutes, and then scatter the remaining chocolate over the top of the cookies. Continue to bake for a further six to eight minutes until a pale golden colour. Transfer to a cooling wire.
To assemble, scoop two balls of ice-cream onto a cookie, and then sandwich the ice-cream with a second cookie. Garnish with fresh berries if desired.
Raspberry and cream cheese mousse
Makes 10 portions as a pre-dessert
For the raspberry and elderflower jelly
3.5g leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water
75g elderflower syrup
75g raspberry coulis
For the mousse
150g soft cream cheese
150g raspberry coulis
60g caster sugar
30g raspberry liqueur
6g leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water
150g double cream
30g semi-skimmed milk
10 small shortbread biscuits
For the jelly, warm the water and use it to dissolve the gelatine. Mix in the remaining ingredients and divide between small glasses to half-fill. Refrigerate to set.
Beat the cream cheese with the coulis and sugar and leave for 15 minutes to allow the sugar to fully dissolve. Re-mix. Warm the raspberry liqueur and use to dissolve the gelatine. Whisk the gelatine mix into the cream cheese base. Combine the cream and milk and lightly whip, then fold into the mousse base. Transfer to a piping bag and fill each of the glasses. Return to the fridge to set.
Serve with a biscuit on the side.