I ALWAYS save room for dessert. In fact, when I go out to restaurants, I start with the dessert section…then choose my main course based on my dessert!
My sweet tooth has been with me all my life, and one of my earliest dessert-related memories comes from enjoying a recipe that was perfected by my grandmother and has since been in my family for decades: Fresas con nata y chocolate.
Fresas con nata y chocolate is a simple recipe of sherry vinegar and sugar marinated strawberries, topped with whipped cream and served over warmed dark chocolate. This recipe may sound strange to some American palettes, (strawberries and vinegar?) but let me give you some context as to why this recipe grew so popular, especially with older generations.
Much of Spain in the 1930s was a rural country. The primary income source at the time was agriculture. Seville, my hometown, was just one hour away from Spain’s largest strawberry-producing region. This meant that from February through May, the local markets would be brimming with fragrant, juicy, lucious, locally-harvested strawberries.
There was just one caveat – It wasn’t until the 1960s that electricity and refrigeration was widely available throughout the countryside. So what do you do with a bounty of fresh produce that you don’t want to spoil? Preserve it!
So much of Spanish cuisine is based on traditional techniques of preservation, using citrus and vinegars and olive oil to keep foods fresh. My grandma used the same concept of preserving fruits in vinegar, so she could enjoy the delicious Spanish strawberries all year.
Her secret was to marinate the strawberries in 1 part vinegar and 3 parts white sugar. The syrup that resulted from the strawberries’ juices, sugar, and vinegar is used in many recipes from cakes to sauces and cupcake fillings. One of my favorite uses is to pour the marinade over sour cream or goat cheese. Keeping with that tradition, my grandmother loved to serve her strawberries with fresh whipped and sweetened cream.
One day, while at her house for a Sunday family lunch, she surprised us with her “improvement to her strawberry recipe” – chocolate ganache. It was the 1990s and the French influence in pastries was noticeable even in people’s homes. That’s how my grandma’s traditional strawberries evolved into the recipe I am now sharing with you!
If you have any family recipes that you would like to share, I would love to hear about them!
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
(Please, note that these are approximated quantities, and you may need to adjust to your taste and your preferred portion sizes)
2 cups of washed and sliced strawberries (½ cup per person)
6 tbsp of white sugar
2 tbsps of sherry wine vinegar
Note: Sherry wine vinegar has a complex nutty flavor with notes of caramel and raisins, plus it’s widely used here in southern Spain. I highly recommend using sherry wine vinegar for a true taste of this recipe, but in a pinch, balsamic will work too.
2 -3 cups of whipping cream and sugar to your taste
1/ 2 bar melting dark chocolate
1/3 cup of heavy cream brought to room temperature
Optional: spearmint leaves for decoration. This is very refreshing, specially if you are preparing this recipe in summertime.
- Electric beater or whisk
- Stainless steel mixing bowl
- A glass bowl and a saucepan to melt the chocolate (Or a microwavable bowl if you use a microwave to melt the dark chocolate)
- A rubber spatula
- A bowl to marinate the strawberries.
- A cutting board and a knife to slice the strawberries.
- Wash and slice the strawberries
- Sprinkle the sugar on the strawberries and add the vinegar.
- Stir well and leave the mix to marinate for at least two hours before serving.
- Whip the heavy cream.
Chef’s Tip: I usually use an electric hand mixer, so in the middle of the whipping process I will add the sugar when the cream has not quite formed solid peaks yet, but is fluffy.
- Melt the dark chocolate using a microwave or hot water bath.
- Add the heavy cream to the chocolate.
Chef’s Tip: Bring the cream to room temperature before adding it to the melted chocolate.(microwave or hot water bath). Then add the heavy cream. Just make sure that the heavy cream is not cold, better to add it room temperature or tepid.
Put the chocolate ganache on the bottom of a glass or porcelain bowl, then place the strawberries on top, but save some syrup for drizzling. Finish by adding a dollop of whipped cream and drizzle with the remaining syrup p. Garnish with mint leaves.
Chef’s Tip: The Perfect Whipped Cream:
- The cream must be very cold. Use a metallic bowl to keep the cream cool.
- The cream must be at least 30% fat.
- Add the sugar and vanilla when raising your beater, the peaks will fold over.