Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Diamond Jubilee Strawberry Crumble Crunch: Sort of Eton Mess without the Eton.

How could you not like a recipe with a reference to Diamond Jubilee. It sounds so chipper and British and what-have-you. I have actually wanted to make this for a long while, only when it was released it was ... cold and rainy here. And winter-like. And no strawberries in season.

But then Christmas came and yay for strawberries and heat and all things sweet and Heston-like.

This recipe was published by Heston Blumenthal for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and thus is actually one I can link the recipe to. It's found here.

Like many Heston dishes, it has several elements brought together. Thankfully for this though, none are overly taxing, and all can be prepared for final assembly just before serving.

So the components are:
  • Crumble
  • Strawberry and rose compote
  • Marbled cream
  • Meringue pieces and freeze-dried strawberries to serve.
Let's get into it.


So if you've made a crumble before, this is familiar-ish territory.

Take your crumble elements:
Here we have sugar, almonds, flour and salt in a food processor, and process it.

 Add in some butter. Pulse into nice lumpy bits. (You could almost certainly do this by hand if you didn't own a processor). (Looking at you Feep. ;)
 Then pop it in the oven to bake. After about 20 minutes we have golden crumble stuff. Let it cool and put it into a container until needed. (I did mine the night before to make it easier).

Strawberry and Rose Compote

While the crumble is baking and making your house smell like amazing baking cake-smells, chop up your seriously-I-know-it's-Christmas-but-six-dollars-a-punnet-these-better-be-good strawberries. (Obviously you may be able to get regular ones, not the variety I got).
Wash and hull your strawberries. Side question: Why do you hull strawberries in England? No-one does that here. I've only seen reference to it in English cookbooks. Is there something different with English Strawberries? Anyway. I did as told, and hulled them. (That's cutting the middle bit out)
Then chopped half and quartered half.  (This is so that some turns sauce-like and pulpy but then you still have strawberry bits in the finished product too. Don't skip this and think it will be better, it won't)
Add in your fructose (fruit sugar). When packing it away, if you have evaporative air-conditioning, (this time) put it in a zip lock bag or it will become a hard solid mass that you will need to throw away.
 Mix it up.
Make some lemon juice. If you don't have kids or don't believe in spoiling them with Heston Blumenthal desserts you can put in vodka.
 Interestingly, a short time later the fructose took otherwise dry chopped strawberries and immediately started making them pulpy and nice looking ruby colours. Add in that lemon juice.
Cook it on the stove for 6 minutes. Mmmm. Thick syrupy, bright red niceness. Resist the urge to eat it all with a spoon and tell your guests there is no dessert, you have become French and will serve cheese instead. Let it cool.

Add in the rosewater (easily found, supermarket sells it in the "ethnic food" section. And the elderflower cordial (which I was surprised to find also in the supermarket section. But I'd already bought a nicer one at the speciality grocer.)
 Add in the quartered strawberries.

Mix and set aside for assembly and serving. Doesn't it look delicious? And less work than it felt like it deserved. Maybe I've gotten so used to complex dishes, the easy stuff throws me.

Marbled cream.

Last stretch! Whip some cream. Then fold through a good quality yogurt.
 And again leave it until ready to serve. You do swirl through a little of the strawberry mix which I did, but then forgot to photograph, sorry.


Take your nicest glass bowl. (Thanks Granny, miss you! She would have totally approved of this dish, most of her favourite things in it.) Pour in the compote (after swirling some through the cream).
Top with the marbled cream. (You can see faint marbling in the picture.)
I actually decided to layer mine - compote-cream-compote-cream. Which I quite liked the look of, and distributed the ingredients a bit more.
Then top with crumbled meringue pieces, and crumble. I did this at the table, since it was obvious that we were going to have leftovers and I didn't want it to all go soft. No one minded. It was also supposed to have freeze dried strawberries, which I wasn't able to find in time for the meal - my usual supplier of these things having sold out. I also used supermarket-bought meringues. It was Christmas eve and I was busy. So there.

Result & Guest Opinions

It was very much a mess on serving. Sloppy and messy and inelegant.

It didn't matter.

It was so tasty! All the guests loved it. One even noted that when I was serving and it was all wet and messy he was getting prepared to be all polite and not saying anything.. but then it was perfect! The sloppy strawberry compute was sweet and a little bit sharp from the lemon and contrasted beautifully with the cream, but not overly rich because the yogurt gave a slight balancing sour note. The broken meringue pieces and crumble gave different degrees of both sweetness and texture against the soft compote.

Lessons learned:

  • I think layering it worked beautifully. If it was for a dinner party, I think it would look amazing in those stemless wine glasses to serve.
  • I think a bit more whipping of the cream might have helped a little - recipe says to medium peaks - I'd err on the firmer peaks side, so that you get a soft body to it once the yogurt goes in.


A seriously good summer dessert. Almost all of it can be prepared ahead of time, it makes the strawberries shine. As its on the messy side, perhaps less dinner-party and more casual family lunch vibe, but all the better for it.

Next time? Not sure, I have a picnic to plan for my daughter's birthday, so maybe after that.

Also: Seeking help and advice: In other news, I will now be going to London for a few days in May (as a side trip of my Italy trip). I would desperately like to get a table at the Fat Duck. (As per my sidebar above). But I'll be travelling solo - any hints on getting a table that don't require me to be uber rich and staying somewhere fancy?

I only really wanted to go to London see the British Museum and eat at the Fat Duck. Maybe not in that order. Any suggestions gratefully considered.

I lucked out and got a table-for-one at Dinner and am absolutely ecstatic! Thanks for the help folks. (On the plus side, since its in London, I don't lose a day of sightseeing.)


  1. In keeping with the British theme I'd like to declare your post -and your dish- absolutely spiffing, tip-top, smashing etc.

    We did this as dessert after a summer barbecue - and we're totally with you in thinking there couldn't be a more summery dessert. Yours will have been a bit more authentic than ours, since we missed out the Elderflower cordial. Plus we used greek yogurt as I like my desserts extra thick and gunky. Yours looks to have all the joy and flavour of the Masterchef trifle, but much less hassle.

    ALSO: Incredibly pleased you'll be making it to the UK. If there was a secret to getting you in at the Fat Duck I'd tell you. As it is Ling booked ours and to this day I have no idea how she managed it (I was on the phone at the same time suffering a combination of frustration and disappointment). I'm sure you've read all the faff on the website so our best advice would be to get yourself on the waiting list for every single sitting that you're in the UK for. http://fatduck.d3r.com/waiting-list

    I've also been told holders of certain credit cards are occasionally offered tables. But we're talking the kind of card I've never even seen, let alone been sent an application form for.

    It's probably worth plugging away at the online booking form, I did once see a table come up on it. I will say they seem to work in even-numbered tables. It might be that you'd have to reserve a table for two, but of course that'd mean the painful experience of paying double the price for an already extortionate meal.

    I personally think there's few people more deserving of a table there than you, especially given your dedication to the chef and the recipes. Sadly demand seems to have led the Fat Duck's reservations team to take a pretty hardline policy. I've read of people who had to cancel due being stranded abroad because of Icelandic ash clouds - they got told they'd just have to go through the rigmarole of trying to get a reservation all over again, no chance of moving the date! Harsh and unfair.

    Have you considered trying out Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental? It's in central London (you'll walk by it on your way to Harrods) so less of a detour, and it currently ranks far higher in the San Pelegrino chart than the Fat Duck does. You'll have equally famous dishes like Meat Fruit and Tipsy cake to choose from, and they have a liquid nitrogen ice cream trolley as well. Many of the dishes there are featured in-depth in Heston's latest one-hundred-and-twentyfive-quid book Historic Heston, and it's clear from the past 3 years of TV shows that these are the recipes he's more interested in nowadays.

    Alternatively you can try the Hind's Head, which also has some stunning and intricate food, and triple cooked chips. But it's opposite the Fat Duck and that might be a cruel taunt too far.

    Our other top London recommendations would be :

    1. ChinChin Labs - amazing liquid nitrogen ice cream, AND you get to wander round Camden which is an essential part of the British cultural experience.
    2. Hawksmoor - theoretically just a steak restaurant. But Heston;s favourite too. They serve triple cooked chips and all manner of amazing treats.
    3. National Gallery - it's free to get in and you can go look at Van Gough's Sunflowers from a moderate distance.

    Sorry if any of this sounds unhelpful, pessimistic or incomplete. Let me know if you need any other info, we'll help in any way we can to make your UK side-trip as awesome as we possibly can.

  2. And, and, and... maybe go watch The Mousetrap. And if you're in London on a Saturday get a bus to Bermondsey and find your way to the St John bakery. It's in a railway arch but I can email needlesly detailed directions if required. Get the doughnuts and the eccles cakes.

    Oh, and don't bother with the Shard.

  3. Oooh, lovely lovely insider info. All tips gratefully taken on. I have considered Dinner if I can't get a table at the Fat Duck (but they don't take single diners either I believe.) But I am gleefully looking for other food establishments to slot in around my old-building and art visiting. :D

    It's funny you mentioned the Mousetrap - as a long time Agatha Christie fan (I used to own almost all of them), it is definitely on my list of things to do!

  4. I'm not even a huge fan but it's such a historically and culturally significant play that I've wanted to go since about the age of 14 when I heard about it on the radio. Plus I liked the idea of being part of the society of audience members who all keep the killers identity secret. I LOVED the it. Be sure to look out for the massive odometer in the foyer that tells you what number performance of the play you're seeing. (24061 for us).

    For food recommendations check out www.thecriticalcouple.com. you'll be both insanely jealous and slack-jawed with amazement. Oh, and the Jack the Ripper tour is well worth taking. Go on the Ripper-vision one, they project historical scenes onto the walls.