"Strawberry Fields" serveware courtesy of Stevens Homewares (details below)
For several weeks now, as each day gets longer and warmer than the last, I've had my eye on the strawberries at my local market and store. That said, long for them though I might, I haven't been prepared to mortgage the house in order to come by a handful of these early season beauties. However, supply at last is sufficiently plentiful that, although still not cheap, they're at least affordable for those of us trying to make ends meet on a modest income.
Although it may seem like sacrilege to eat one's first strawberries of the season in any other way than completely natural, I was in the mood for something a little different for a luxurious Saturday morning brunch.
Inspiration came from casting my mind back to summer yoga retreats spent in the Greek islands, where a regular late breakfast by the pool was as simple as big bowls of fresh strawberries, topped with Greek yoghurt, and drizzled lavishly with gorgeous, fragrant thyme honey, and topped off with chopped pistachios.
Although thyme honey is not available here, I thought that I could achieve something reminiscent of that flavour by roasting the strawberries with a combination of good local honey and a bunch of fresh thyme.
Further inspiration came from one of my favourite restaurants in Bali, which offers a brunch dish of french toast filled with cream cheese and peaches and topped with an orange sauce.
In my interpretation day-old bread is sandwiched with a generous filling of mascarpone mixed with freeze dried mango powder (fresh or tinned mango would work too if you have it available), soaked in a wash of egg and orange juice, pan-fried in butter until golden, and then smothered in a warm, juicy compote of strawberries roasted with thyme and honey. You may find that some of the ingredients in this strawberry compote might sound a little weird, but trust me when I tell you it works.
This felt like a very indulgent brunch, and I will quite unashamedly admit that my gluttony led me to devour the whole lot on my own. If, however, you are inclined to a little more restraint, then this would probably feed two.
Orange Mango French Toast with
Honey Roasted Strawberry Compote Recipe
Serves 1 greedy person or 2 normal people
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
For the compote:
1x punnet strawberries
2-3 tablespoons runny honey
small bunch fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground black pepper
For the french toast:
4x slices day old bread, 1.5cm (1/2 inch) thick
(brioche would be perfect if you can get it)
2-3 tablespoons mascarpone
approx 1 tablespoon Fresh-As freeze dried mango powder
(or substitute finely diced fresh mango)
2x large, free-range eggs
1x orange, juice & zest
1-2 tablespoons butter for frying
Begin by preparing the compote. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Meanwhile, clean and hull strawberries. Cut in half, or into quarters if very large, and put all the strawberries in a single layer in a close-fitting oven dish. Drizzle liberally with 2-3 tablespoons of runny honey. Quantities are not too critical here, so feel free to use more if you so desire. Sprinkle over thyme leaves - thyme flowers would be fine too if you happen to have them. Drizzle with just a little balsamic vinegar (about 1 tablespoon), and top with a generous grind of black pepper.
Put into the preheated oven and bake until the strawberries have softened but are still holding their shape, and juices have started to run and become syrupy. Remove from oven.
While strawberries are baking, prepare the french toast. In a small bowl, mix together mascarpone and freeze dried mango powder - use more or less to get the level of mango flavour that suits you. Spread two slices of the bread liberally with the mascarpone/mango mixture, and top with the other two slices. In a wide shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs with the zest and juice of the orange. Place sandwiches into the egg mixture, and allow to soak for a couple of minutes before turning over to soak on the other side. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted and starting to sizzle, then add egg-soaked sandwiches to the pan. Cooked until richly golden brown on one side, then flip over and cook the other side.
Once golden brown on both sides, remove to a serving platter and liberally spoon over the warm strawberry compote. Serve with some Greek style yoghurt and some extra runny honey for drizzling over the top if desired. You could also top with a few chopped pistachios if you like.
Sit down and indulge.
Props courtesy of Stevens Homewares Ltd
Strawberry milk jug & sugar bowl
This will be a submission to Sweet New Zealand, inspired by Alessandra Zecchini and hosted this month by Lucy at The Kitchen Maid.