To celebrate the throes of cherry-picking season we have four delightful British cherry desserts.
Traditional cherry orchards were phased out in the Sixties and by 2004 there were just a pitiful 960 acres of orchards left in the UK.
But thanks to modern techniques and the increased support of consumers and supermarkets, the British cherry is back – and it’s bigger, juicier and tastier than ever.
Thankfully the period of dwindling cherry production is over and this flavoursome fruit is enjoying a revolution. Nick Marston, on behalf of Britain’s cherry farmers commented, “This is an exciting time to be a British cherry grower, it is a story of recovered hope after decades of decline”.
Long gone are the days of towering trees and wobbly picking ladders: nowadays British cherries are typically grown on dwarf-trees and often in plastic tunnels. This is good news for home gardeners – even the smallest garden should accommodate a dinky dwarf tree.
Cherries have pleased our palates for centuries. It is believed that the stony fruits arrived in Britain in the first century AD. Legend has it that you can trace the route of old Roman Roads in Britain by looking out for wild cherry trees. Storytellers insist Roman legions spat the stones from the fruit as they marched.
Blink and you’ll miss the British cherry season – picking only takes place during the height of summer from late June until September – so get your hands on a punnet pronto!
Caramelised Cherries with Amaretti Semifreddo
Dish type: Dessert
An amazing hot and cold combo. Semi freddo is the Italian for semi frozen and this is quite literally how this easy ice cream is served, there are no fiddly beatings to do once it goes into the freezer, mix together, freeze and 3-4 hours later you have a fab summer pud that complements the hot caramel cherries perfectly.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Freezing time: 3-4 hours
Cooking time: 5-7 minutes
Amaretti semi freddo
3 medium eggs, separated
75 g (3 oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400 ml (14 fl oz) double cream
150 g (5 oz) amaretti biscuits, finely chopped
200 g (7 oz) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
6 tablespoons boiling water
400 g (14 oz) British cherries, stalks and stones removed
1. To make the semi freddo, add the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla to one large bowl, the egg whites to another and the cream to a third slightly smaller bowl. Whisk the egg whites with a handheld electric mixer until stiffly peaking. Using the still dirty whisk, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale. Rinse the whisk beaters, dry and then softly whip the cream.
2. Fold the cream into the egg yolk mix then the crushed biscuits and finally the whisked egg whites. Spoon the mixture into a large metal loaf tin, cover the top loosely with clingfilm then freeze the mixture for 3-4 hours or until firm enough to scoop.
3. About 30 minutes before serving, add the granulated sugar and cold water to a frying pan for the caramelised cherries, heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring very occasionally. Increase the heat and boil for 3-5 minutes, without stirring until the syrup is golden.
4. Take the pan off the heat, add 2 tablespoons boiling water and stand well back as the hot syrup will spit. When the bubbles have subsided slightly tilt the pan to mix the extra water into the syrup. Drizzle 6 tablespoons of the hot caramel over a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
5. Quickly add the 4 more tablespoons of boiling water to the syrup still in the pan then the cherries, heat together for 3-4 minutes until the syrup has remelted and the cherries have softened and coloured the syrup. Set aside until ready to serve. Transfer caramel on the paper to the fridge to harden.
6. Scoop the just set semi freddo into bowls, reheat the caramelised cherries, if needed, spoon over semi freddo and decorate with the chilled caramel, broken into shards. Serve immediately!
Tip: short of time? Serve the caramelised cherries over scoops of good quality readymade vanilla ice cream