July 27, 2008

A Currant Affair

Red and juicy, some of them dried already and prey to birds, the currants glow like jewels. I can feel the sun on my neck and my back as I stoop over the bush. Every so often, a berry breaks, and my fingers are stained red with the warm juice.

Dad’s currant bushes are on the edge of the property, on a hot, dry steep slope. You’ve got to watch your feet scrabbly gravel. Every once in a while, a warm red berry pops off the bush and lands, caught in the dry stiff grasses. It’s hot.

I’ve gone out to pick the berries, not knowing what I’ll make with them – arguably a foolish thing to do, but I want to play in the kitchen indoors where it’s cool.

So I’m out in the heat, snipping sprigs of berries and encouraging the occasional ant to look elsewhere for dinner. We opt to split the bush: there are enough berries for everyone and no doubt for some early-morning birds, too.

Inside, the berries are sorted. My feet hurt; it takes almost an hour to pluck and clean just over 2 cups of berries, but they are so beautiful that I’m proud.

The best sprigs stay to one side for garnishing; the rest onto the stove for sauce. I have to get a clean spoon, because I’ve licked this one! The sauce is warm and bubbly, very tart – almost, but not quite, sour.

Red Currant whip – 15 mins prep; 1 hour cooling time

Lemon sherry cream
- Some heavy cream, about 1 cup
- Half a fresh lemon
- 2 Tablespoons sherry
- sprinkling of sugar
In a bowl or a large measuring jug, stir together the cream, the juice of half a lemon and the sherry. Sprinkle with sugar. Whip with a wire whisk until frothy and stiffened – this may or may not take 2 minutes. Put in the fridge to cool.

Red currant compote
- 2 cups fresh currants
- 1/2 cup sugar
Place the currants and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool. You can strain it if you want, but I don’t mind the seeds.

Layer nice glass dishes with cut nectarines, spoonfuls of the currant compote, and chill until dessert time. Then pour the lemon cream on top and blance sprigs of fresh currants to decorate. Best served chilled.


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