It’s National Cherry Day on 16th July.
Believe it or not, this will be the 11th year of celebrating the humble cherry. And National Cherry Day was originally started back in 2008 to raise awareness of Britain’s cherries.
Do you know that during the 20th century, Britain lost 90% of its cherry orchards? This is because following the wars, cherry orchards were planted over with more vital crops to feed the people.
So, the good folks at CherryAid (we thought this was a drink!) started a campaign to get more cherries grown in the UK. And whilst we still import 95% of all cherries, we’re now producing much more of these little red delights, which is good news.
After all, whilst we can’t claim them as our own, they have been part of Britain for a long while. It’s a fact that The Romans first brought cherries from Persia and introduced them here in Britain. Some even say that ancient roads can be traced from the spots where marching Romans spat out their seeds and caused a new tree to grow!
Did you know that just 10 cherries can make up one of your five a day? They are nutritious and help fight disease and other illnesses. Helping you to sleep, serving as a kind of pain-relieving aspirin and fighting against ageing, this is one super-cherry!
So, what about using them in cooking?
Well, they are a match made in heaven when it comes to desserts. Think cherry pie, cherry bakewells, cherry muffins, cherry scones and cherry cheesecake, to name just a few!
But, you may not realise they are also just as good in savoury dishes. How about sour cherry goat cheese tarts, pork tenderloin with fresh cherry salsa, cherry pesto chicken and roast duck in cherry sauce?
Yes, it’s fair to say that the cherry is a wonderful fruit and one we chefs love to have in our kitchen.
As National Cherry Day is an event started in this country, it only seemed fitting to provide a quintessential British recipe this week:
For the pastry:
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150g chilled, salted butter
75g ice-cold water
For the frangipane:
200g softened, unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
200g ground almonds
For the cherry jam:
300g fresh cherries
100g caster sugar
flaked almonds, for decoration
1. For the shortcrust pastry, put the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub together until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add around three-quarters to the bowl and stir, then continue adding the water and kneading it until it becomes a dough. Wrap it tightly in cling film and chill.Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4 and grease a 12-inch tart tin with plenty of butter.
2. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Roll it up around your rolling pin and place it in the tart tin. You should then trim around the edges, leaving at least a centimetre overhang. Prick the base with a fork and chill for another 15 minutes.
3. Line your pastry case with a square of baking paper and bake for 15–20 minutes, then remove the paper and bake for another 10 minutes until pale.
4. Whilst the case is baking, start the jam. Put the cherries into a pan with the sugar, place on a high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until thick and jammy, stirring regularly. This will take about 10 minutes.
5. Make your frangipane whilst the pastry is baking by mixing the butter and sugar together until paste-like. Make sure the butter is soft before starting; give it a zap in the microwave if necessary. Add the eggs and almonds and mix everything together until it is a pretty even consistency.
6. When the pastry is baked, trim the excess with a sharp knife. Spread your jam over the base and then cover carefully with frangipane. Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the frangipane is springy and golden.