Strawberry fields forever


A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Handorf, South Australia, to visit the Paech family of Beerenberg Farm. I'd met most of the family a few months ago at an event they hosted in Sydney but it was so great to see them all at home and take a look at the family farm, shop and factory.

I'll be posting more from the above shortly but because we are in high strawberry season right now, wanted to start with a few pictures from perhaps the family's most well-known operation - pick your own strawberries.

The Paech's have been inviting visitors to come and pick berries on the farm for ** years and wow do they come. I arrived at 9am on a Monday morning and pickers began trickling then flowing through the doors the moment they opened. 

If the Beerenberg farm was closer to me, I'd be dropping in pretty often too. There's no comparison between sun-warmed, just picked ripe berries and the huge, cold ones we see in the supermarkets, plus, it's also way more fun to pick your own (great for the kids too). Back at the Beerenberg shop, pickers have their haul weighed, stock up on jams, chutneys, sauces, chocolate covered strawberries and even freshly churned strawberry ice cream.

After my little expedition in the strawberry patch, Sally kindly invited me over to her Mum Carol's house across the road (which is also Beerenberg's head office). We had lunch in Carol's shady, rose-filled garden and finished with little trifles of fresh strawberries, whipped cream and Beerenberg chocolate sauce. All so good.

If you live in or around Adelaide or the Adelaide Hills or are planning a visit to the area, please drop in to the Beerenberg farm and shop - it's a great spot run by really great people (like lovely Sally Paech, whose parents started Beerenberg and who now works with her two brothers in the business).

And if you can't make it there in person, their online store is the next best thing.

Feeling inspired by all these beautiful strawberries - I decided to road test a Christmas-y meringue trifle and here are the results below!

Strawberry meringue 'trifle'

This isn't a proper trifle in that there's no sponge, jelly or alcohol element but it is dead easy and just delicious. Plus, for those of you, like myself, that struggle with the soggy sponge and jelly combination, this just might be the perfect festive alternative! The strawberries, meringue and custard can all be made well ahead of time then just assembled before you start the meal. Serves 8-10

For the meringues

8 egg whites
pinch salt
2 cups caster sugar

Preheat oven to 120C and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Place egg whites in  a clean, dry electric mixer bowl, add the pinch of salt and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar, a little at a time until all incorporated then whisk for another minute until the mixture is smooth, glossy and stiff enough so you can hold the bowl over your head without incident (thanks Jamie Oliver for that tip!).

Place spoonfuls of the meringue on prepared trays (leaving room for spreading) and bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and let meringues cool in there.

For the custard

Make up a quantity of this apple mint custard (but just don't churn it into ice cream - or do, then serve it as an ice cream trifle...actually that's a great idea!) and keep in the fridge to thicken a little.  Whip 300mls cream until nice and thick then fold this through the custard just before assembling.

For the strawberries

500g of the best, ripest, preferably hand-picked strawberries
4 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of two lemons
1 tsp pure vanilla paste

Hull and slice the strawberries then toss with remaining ingredients and leave to mascerate for a few hours.

To assemble, pile the meringues in a trifle bowl or on a large platter. Pour over the cream and custard mixture (it will sink to the bottom and the meringues will probably float on top). Then spoon over the strawberries and top with shaved dark chocolate.


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