Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Balsamic Syrup, Basil, Black Pepper and... Strawberries??

The strawberries at the farmers' market have been tempting me all these weeks with their seductive fragrance. I can smell them when I'm 6 feet away I'm not kidding. I think the best strawberries are the ones that are so ripe they're almost on the brink of going bad, when they have little patches of squidgey bits here and there, they're so sweet you don't need the extra sprinkling of sugar that some people call for.

Although the classic English combination of strawberries and (full-fat, double and raw if you can) cream is delicious, and although balsamic vinegar, basil, and black pepper seems like a recipe for a savoury something, by weird brilliant magic, they somehow work with strawberries. It's really easy to make your own balsamic syrup, no reason to fork out a fortune for it.

How to make your own balsamic syrup/reduction
2 cups balsamic vinegar (Make more at a go, they can keep quite easily in a bottle or jar. Don't buy the gourmet ones that are aged and divine because they cost the earth, but do check that it's not just normal vinegar with grape juice concentrate added. if it's from Modena, it should be relatively ok.)

1. In a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot, bring the vinegar to a boil and simmer until it reduces to a thick and syrupy consistency. It will intensify in sweetness and tanginess, but your kitchen will smell awful so make sure it's ventilated properly!
2. Leave to cool before pouring into a jar. You can get fancy and add lemon peel, herbs like mint or thyme, or just keep it simple which is more versatile.

Simple isn't it? You can use it drizzled as a finishing touch over cooked vegetables, as a glaze for fish and meats, or like with the strawberries, over fresh/grilled fruits and thick greek-style yogurt.

Strawberries with Balsmic Syrup, Basil and Black Pepper

(all amounts are up to you. just bung it.)
ripe strawberries, cut into halves or quarters
handful of fresh basil
balsamic syrup
freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients, then scatter the fresh basil over. Instant summer dessert!

Strawberries have been appearing in the farmers' markets for about a month now, much earlier than expected because of the sunny weather. But I read somewhere that the unusually hot and dry weather's not doing wonders for the berries. They're out earlier, but they're going to disappear earlier too, so GRAB YOUR STRAWBERRIES WHILE YOU CAN!

Oh, the reason why I'm suddenly posting about balsamic vinegar? I'm going to Rome 2 days later! Just finished my assessment today in a state of daze because I somehow forgot my alphabets, and thought L (for LEE, my surname) came after M, and was under the impression that my portfolio was due wednesday until yesterday night. Yah, knock head. Anyway, I'll be back blogging next week, and I can't wait to share the food I eat and get some cooking inspiration!

Check back for hot pastas and Italians ;)


  1. I never tried balsamic .. although have heard so much about it. This is a great salad dish .. and looks so nice :)

  2. I agree, almost over-ripe strawberries do tend to be lovely and sweet. Still yet to try them with balsamic vinegar, though I've known about this combination for a long time now - must do it eventually. Enjoy Rome! :)

  3. I've heard of eating strawberries with balsamic vinegar, but never anything as exciting as this! It's different, but it looks good!

  4. Oh Pungent Berries, the only thing I miss about summer. Summer was long and dry down South too, not sure why. It's great you follow your sense of smell, most fruits are just sweet and odourless nowadays.

    Hey have a great time in Rome. I miss that one too. Jealous*

  5. This is one of the best tasting salad ever! I have tried with blueberries variation and It's as great! Thanks for the balsamic syrup recipe... now I can save some $$$

  6. thanks! I can't wait for Rome! leaving in a few hours now!

    @ leaf: yes, over-ripe ones are the best! do try this combination one day. weird but brilliant!

    @PFx: berries are my absolute fav part of summer too! only wish the season would be better.. hehe Rome lalala

    @Food Glorious Food: WIth blueberries? that I've yet to try! great idea (:

  7. Sounds interesting, Shu Han! I should give this a try!
    Enjoy your trip to Rome! ;)

  8. What a wonderful spin on using fresh strawberries ... love it!

  9. I have lots of strawberries and just recently bought Balsamic Vinegar..gotta try this combo! Thanks for sharing and have fun in Rome!