For me, the cherry spells summer. Unlike other fruits which we now seem to have access to all year round in our supermarkets, cherries still only have a short glorious season, and when they're ripe we like to gorge on them. Red juices running down our chins, popping them hurriedly into our mouths like sweeties, and enjoying the only time of the year when we're allowed to spit, as we shoot stones from our pursed lips and catch them in a bowl, or better still fire them across the garden hoping that one day we may have a tree of our own.
If you're reluctant to forage your own wild cherries, then look out for Picota cherries in the shops now, fresh from Spain - you should be able to pick up a punnet for £1. Sweet and juicy, these are picked only when perfectly ripe and they come away from the stalk - meaning you'll find them stalkless in the shops.
"These cherries are particularly special, because they are unique to the Jerte Valley and are protected by a Denomination of Origin (DO) certificate, which verifies that the fruit has been grown, harvested and packed under rigorous quality control procedures and has come exclusively from the Valle Del Jerte in Spain. This also means that Picotas are only available for six weeks per year and they are not ever ‘artificially’ cultivated to yield profit to the detriment of taste and quality."
If you're looking for a fresh way to eat your cherries, try this twangy pastry, perfect for picnics, pack-up and puddings. The cracked black pepper gives a gentle punch and really balances well with the sweetness of the custard and the ripe cherries.
One punnet of Picota Cherries
One pack ready-roll puff pastry
2 egg yolks
1/2 pint single cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
A few twists of black peppercorns
Makes approx 8.
Begin by making your custard. Warm the milk with the vanilla pod in a saucepan gently, don't allow to boil. Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks and beat them together in a jug with the sugar and cornflour. Add to the hot milk (remove the vanilla pod at this point) and whisk over a low heat until the custard thickens. Once it's thickened, remove from heat and stand the pan in a bowl of cold water to prevent it cooking further. Leave to cool.
Next, remove the stones from your cherries.
Following the pack instructions on the pastry, unwrap and cut into rectangles approx 5x3 inches. With a sharp knife, score around the inside, about 1/4 inch in, to make a 'picture frame' effect. Be careful not to cut right through. Turn up the edges and pinch the corners so you have a pocket for the custard.
Spoon in approx 2 tablespoons of cooled custard and arrange the cherries on top.
Cook at 200-220 for around 20 mins or according to the pack instructions.
Once the custard has set and browned and the pastry is cooked, remove from the oven and add a generous twist of black pepper.
Serve hot or cold.
If you enjoyed this recipe and post, I'd be really grateful if you could spare a second and vote for it. I might win a trip for myself to the Valle del Jerte. Thank you.