Ode to strawberries

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How to cook this fruit with natural sugar alternatives

Juicy, summery and delicious, the strawberry is also known as the ‘queen of fruits’. Grown year round, and in all states of Australia, everyone loves them for their sweet yet tart taste.

One of the most beautiful things about the strawberry is its versatility – you can have it fresh, cooked or frozen.

How to select the best strawberries

Strawberries have a very short shelf life, even in the refrigerator. The best place to buy strawberries is a strawberry farm, where they are picked fresh. You may also get from the local farmers’ market. You should look for strawberries that are dark red in colour, avoiding the orange undertones. Sometimes you can also choose a good basket of berries by giving it a sniff. Sweet, ripe strawberries are going to have a great berry scent to them. You can store them in refrigerator for two to three days

Going sugar free

Whether your motive is to eat healthy, or you are allergic to treated sugar, it is always beneficial to remove white sugar from your diet. There are many natural and healthy alternatives to white sugar which give the same sweetness but do not pose a risk like artificial sweeteners. Some of the commonly used natural sweeteners include coconut sugar/palm sugar, stevia, erythritol and xylitol.

Coconut sugar is a sugar produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar has been used as a traditional sweetener for thousands of years in South and South-East Asian regions, where the coconut palm is in abundant supply. Coconut sugar has gained popularity as a health food and among people with diabetes because of its low glycemic index.

Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. Pure stevia has up to 150 times the sweetness of sugar. The active compounds of stevia are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable.

Erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols extracted from fruits and vegetables. They have a low glycemic index and are easy to digest. They are stable on high heat and can be used in baking.

As with any serious medical conditions, or if in doubt, consult your health practitioner before incorporating stevia or coconut sugar into your daily diet.

 

INDIAN STRAWBERRY SEMOLINA

A common traditional dessert from South Asia, this is easily prepared with available ingredients, all year round. The pudding is a little sweet and tangy, so you may choose to alter the quantity of sugar and strawberries as per your taste.

Ingredients

½ cup semolina
½ cup butter or ¼ cup ghee
¾ cup water
½ cup strawberries
¼ cup coconut sugar (or palm sugar)
1 tbsp. stevia (optional, substitute with 2 tbsp. coconut sugar)
8-10 almonds, finely chopped

Method

Puree the strawberries in a blender, keep them aside.
Heat a pan and dry roast the semolina for 5-10 minutes on a slow flame. Keep this aside.
Heat butter/ghee in a pan.
Add the roasted semolina to it and roast on a slow flame for 2 minutes.
Add the sugar, water and strawberry puree.
Keep stirring and let it simmer for a few minutes, until the water is fully absorbed.
Turn off the heat.
Garnish with dry almonds.

INDIAN STRAWBERRY MURRABA

This is classic Indian sweet jam pickle recipe adds the slightly tangy flavour of strawberries without the addition of any white sugar. Prepare in advance and enjoy with your favourite bread.

Ingredients

1 raw mango (medium in size), peeled and chopped
Fresh strawberries (2 cups), halved
Cardamom seeds (from 2-3 cardamom pods)
2-3 tbsp coconut sugar

Method

Bring to boil 1 litre of water in a pan.
Add mango pieces and cardamom seeds and let it boil for 10 minutes.
Add the strawberry pieces and turn off the heat after 2 minutes.
Drain the water. Move the ingredients to a separate bowl.
Add the coconut sugar to the mix. Cover the bowl with a lid and leave the mango and strawberry loose in the mixture.
Leave aside for 5-6 hours at room temperature, and then another 5-6 hours in the refrigerator.
Take a clean pan and heat the jam mix. Stir it slowly until the water has 90 per cent evaporated.
Let it cool and transfer to an air tight container.
You can store this in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.