You wouldn’t think that strawberries would pair well with vinegar, would you? Well ok, so it’s not regular vinegar, the kind you’d splash on to your fish and chips (if you ate fish n chips, that is), the kind that is used to pickle onions, etc. It’s balsamic vinegar to which I refer, and that too good quality balsamic vinegar. If you wanted the best quality aged balsamic vinegar, you’d probably have to sell your house to afford it, so I wouldn’t recommend best quality balsamic vinegar - just the good quality balsamic vinegar that costs a few pounds for 250ml, say, from a known brand. I used Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which I understand is good quality balsamic vinegar.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way (and by the way, I may have qualified for entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for mentioning “balsamic vinegar” the most times in a single paragraph. No, I wasn’t trying to qualify particularly, it’s just one of those lucky things that happen when you mention “balsamic vinegar” many many many many times).
So, my balsamic vinegar from Modena. I had the bottle on my shelf for at least a couple of years – I probably bought it when I read about it but didn't have a clue what to do with it really. So it just sat there in my pantry, probably ageing gracefully. (I like having well-stocked kitchen cupboards - I have more things than I know what to do with, all of which I've bought on the off chance that I might need it for a recipe - because it would be a disaster if I didn't have it when required. Sometimes I think I should just live in a supermarket. That would solve my shelving problems too.)
Anyway, my first actual encounter with balsamic vinegar was at a gastropub a few miles from Shrewsbury. I had an absolutely delicious beetroot salad with a balsamic vinegar reduction for a starter - one bite of that salad, and I was hooked. And then I remembered this recipe on one of my favourite blogs, which was a happy coincidence as I had some really lovely Devonshire strawberries - and a beautiful dessert happened.
But, aaaack! I didnt have mascarpone cheese (See, this is why I say I should live in a supermarket - I would definitely have had mascarpone cheese at hand!), and I had to wing it with the best substitute I could think of - fat-free Greek yogurt, which I mixed with a tablespoon of sugar... and my poor-man's mascarpone cheese was created.
I dont think I missed the mascarpone, to be honest - the lightly sweetened yogurt tasted wonderful with the strawberries and balsamic vinegar syrup.
Recipe for: Strawberries with balsamic vinegar syrup
3 cups (25-30) fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of your berries)
For the syrup:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup thick Greek yogurt
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the strawberries and set it aside for 15-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make the balsamic vinegar syrup. Put the sugar in a small pan, squeeze over the lemon juice.
3. Pour the balsamic vinegar over this and stir. Heat the mixture and let the sugar dissolve, then let the vinegar bubble till it's reduced to a syrup that coats the back of a spoon thickly.
4. Cool the syrup.
5. Mix the sugar with the Greek yogurt and the vanilla extract
till it's a smooth but still thick "sauce".
To serve, toss the strawberries lightly with a tablespoon of the vinegar syrup, then portion them out into serving bowls. Dollop a tablespoon of the Greek yogurt on top, drizzle with some more syrup and serve.