I was always taught, by cookbooks and various culinary TV shows, never to cook a strawberry. You should never freeze them either; something about their high water content means they turn to unpalatable mush in either scenario. Once, in a mood of reckless impetuosity, I scattered a few strawberries over the top of a cake I was making (to accompany more oven-friendly berries like blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants), curious to see if this wisdom was in fact correct.
Although they are a very different beast to the plump, glossy, bouncy fresh berries you buy in punnets, strawberries folded into a cake batter are a lovely thing in their own right. True, they do collapse rather a lot, but they also emit some gorgeously sweet, sticky, irresistibly strawberry-y juice, so much more powerfully flavoured than the raw berries. This, mingled with a buttery cake crumb, is very pleasant.
This is a gigantic hulk of a cake. It’s full of deliciously substantial goodness in the form of polenta and ground almonds, meaning it’s gluten free. It’s enriched with the tang of oranges and lemons, given a deep flavour with orange peel powder. This works beautifully with the sweetness of strawberries, juicily strewn throughout the gorgeously moist, buttery cake crumb. A sprinkle of toasted pistachios on top gives a texture contrast, and a beautiful earthy flavour to complement the zingy orange and sweet berries. It’s very satisfying and moreish, a great complement to an afternoon cup of tea or a luscious dessert with some vanilla ice cream.
Go on, cook a strawberry. I dare you.