There is a simple joy in walking down the vegetable aisle of a store with berries of varied shapes, colours and flavours in neat little punnets. While they may be tiny, what they lack in size, they make up for in sheer flavour. Eaten simply by themselves, baked into pies, preserved as jams or enriched with a dollop of whipped cream, they are easily one of the widely consumed food groups in the world. From powdery, navy blueberries, deep dark blackberries, rich purple mulberries to ruby red raspberries, the variety is endless.
Regularly praised in glowing terms by doctors and foodies alike, the health benefits of berries match its culinary versatility. There are several powerful antioxidants present in berries, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C. Anthocyanins give berries their vibrant color, reduce inflammation, and help prevent and manage arthritis. Anthocyanins work together with quercetin to help slow age-related memory-loss. Berries are ‘juicy foods’; great for losing weight because their high water content increases the volume while driving down the calories.
But these nutritional benefits are excellent side effects to an ingredient that can just as easily be baked, pureed into a smoothie or reduced into syrup for introducing complex notes to any dish. While berries most naturally lend themselves to desserts, they work just as wonderfully in salads, main courses and beverages.
For a stunning dinner, grill a smoky pork loin and serve it with spicy-sweet blackberry chutney. Or pair roasted beef tenderloin with a raspberry chimichurri. Coarsely blend raspberries, parsley, orange zest, garlic, lemon juice and cumin to make the condiment. Bake chicken thighs with rosemary, glazed in a blueberry-balsamic vinegar. Try a grilled cheese sandwich made with bacon strips, pear and raspberry, preserve in between slices of multi-grain bread; all of which are easily available at any of our stores.
Berry salads are another delicious way to enjoy this fruit. Break away from the same old salads with a berry panzanella; a salad with pieces of leftover baguette that soak up the juices of the fruit. Also use berries with savoury vegetables to add some creativity and zing to your salads. Try blueberry with cucumber and feta cheese, or strawberries with arugula and goat’s cheese.
Stay cool in high summer with berry infused waters, granitas and mojitos. Prepare a simple syrup of the berries to easily add flavour to iced teas or lemonade. Try a blueberry-mint lemonade or pair raspberries with rosemary in a martini. Or muddle a mixture of these berries and top with Prosecco for an elegant drink.
Of course, berries shine brightest in desserts and preserves; needing only basic pantry staples to highlight their delicious flavours. Pair with dark or white chocolate in cakes, puddings and cheesecakes. Use as the filling for tarts, cobblers and pies, topped with some softly whipped and sweetened cream. Add to yogurt and top with granola for a healthy sweet dish or place a mound of freshly cut mixed berries on top of a crisp meringue.
Luscious, homemade jams are another fabulous way to harvest the colours and flavours of berries. Being a true comfort food, they bring a little sunshine to the morning breakfast. A smear of chunky mulberry jam on warm, toasted bread is one of the best ways to start the day.
So go on, grab a punnet of your favourite berries and add colour and deliciousness to everyday meals!
Photo credit: foodgawker.com