the appetizer:

How to Eat by Nigella Lawson presents simple yet elegant approach to food, including recipes like this complete Midsummer Dinner: Pea, Mint, and Avocado Salad, Beef Fillet with Red Wine, Anchovies, Garlic, and Thyme (with a Tagliata variation), New Potatoes, Warm Spinach with Lemon, and Strawberries in Dark Syrup with Proust's Madeleines.

Cookbook Profile

Strawberries in Dark Syrup
with Proust's Madeleines

from Midsummer Dinner for 8

The darkness of the syrup in question comes from balsamic vinegar. Well, wait; this is not a sprightly, modern, hardly-dressed salad, but one with a syrup of garnet depths and intensity. The balsamic vinegar seems to make the red of the strawberries against it shine with the clarity of stained-glass windows. And it tastes as it looks, deep and light at the same time.

If you have some syrup left over after dinner, you can boil it up so that it reduces and thickens and you'll have the world's best-ever, most intensely strawberryish ever, sauce to pour over vanilla ice cream. There won't be enough this way for more than just you, but do it anyway; it's a heady experience.

Steep 2 pounds of strawberries, hulled and halved, in 2 tablespoons (I find it easier to drizzle this over in 6 teaspoons) balsamic vinegar (the best you can afford) and 10 tablespoons superfine sugar. Cover with plastic film and give the dish a good but gentle shake to make sure all the berries get some sugar and some vinegar on them, and leave for 3 hours.

Please—no cream, or similar, with these. But any form of sponge or cake would be fine. Because we are talking ecstatic culinary experience here, it seems entirely appropriate to produce some madeleines. The recipe here comes, naturally enough, from Dining with Proust, so we are really talking about:


Proust's Madeleines

As you need to leave the batter for 1-1/2 hours, you may have to think of baking them as you eat the first two courses. You can eat them—warm and fragrant—as cake-cookies for dessert. Obviously, you need to buy the special molds for these shell-shaped cakes, but that's not difficult now. I use ones that can take 2 tablespoons of the mixture below, but they are best when you fill them with just 1 tablespoon. You may, then, need to bake them in two batches. This makes about two dozen.

Mix 6 tablespoons of the butter with the honey. Beat the eggs, sugar, and salt in a bowl for about 5 minutes with a mixer until it's as thick as mayonnaise. Sprinkle in the flour; I hold a strainer above the egg and sugar mixture, put the flour in it, and shake. Fold in the flour with a wooden spoon and then add the melted butter and the honey. Mix well, but not too vigorously. Leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour, then take out and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the remaining butter over the cavities in the madeleine molds and fill them with the cake mixture. Don't worry about filling the cavities; in the heat of the oven, the mixture will spread before it rises.

Bake 5-10 minutes or until lightly golden on top and golden brown around the edges. Mine seem cooked after about 7 minutes, but not all ovens are the same, so be alert from 5 minutes. Turn out and let cool on a rack, then arrange on a plate and dust with confectioners' sugar.


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This page created August 2007