We’ve been having the most glorious summer weather here in London – this historic city is even more beautiful when the sun is shining and you can appreciate the architecture, gardens and cafe society in the golden glow of the summer sun rather than scurrying along under an umbrella, shoulders hunched, looking at the ground to avoid puddles. There is a wonderful campaign of sorts, called “Look up London” which exhorts us to look up and admire the amazing architecture – I always travel on the top decks of buses just so that I have a better view of the upper sections of the buildings. In fact, when Jake was just a toddler, we used to spend the bus journeys into the West End, on the upper decks, gargoyle spotting. Such fun!
Last weekend, a friend organised a picnic in a private garden square off Sloane Street in Belgravia – the posh bit of Chelsea. “Simply bring yourself!” he exclaimed, when I asked what I should bring; “I just want you to relax and enjoy yourself.” Now, I have been on his picnics before – it’s all silver cutlery, china plates, crystal glasses, linen napkins, gorgeous throws to sit on and really beautiful food. This picnic was no different – his “prep area” was an arbour set with wooden block seating where the hampers and bottles of wine where kept cool in the shade. Adjacent to this, in the sunshine and next to a lavender edged flower bed, he had spread out one of his enormous throws, scattered with large Indian carpet cushions. Along with a couple of deck chairs, a white linen covered occasional table set with a vase of flowers, a pile of the Sunday papers and a bronze Blackamoor holding out a box of marshmallows, it was akin to something out of the Days of the Raj – all that was missing was the punkah-wallah to keep us cool!
And the food…poached salmon on watercress with an avocado sauce garnished with lemon, prawns and squid rings; a wild rice salad with orange and red peppers, cashew nuts and dried cranberries: a green bean and tomato salad and finally, a vodka marinated cucumber salad with a dill sauce – all immaculately presented, of course. We also had fabulously ripe cheeses brought along by one of the guests, macaroons, the aforementioned marshmallows and I took these Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Strawberries – because I was not going to be able to turn up empty handed! A really splendid afternoon, catching up with old friends and making some new ones, in these beautiful gardens far removed from the hoi-polloi of “barbaric” Chelsea!
These Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Strawberries are a modern, healthy and portable version of a Strawberry Cheesecake. Hollowed out strawberries are filed with a sweetened vanilla cream cheese then dipped in melted chocolate and coated with biscuit crumbs. I saw a version without the chocolate on Pinterest last year but when I made them I found that the biscuit crumbs got soggy from the strawberries as well as the cream cheese. The chocolate forms a barrier and a really delicious one at that! Feel free to use semi-sweet or milk chocolate instead of dark if you prefer. I made two punnets for the picnic and one for this post. The strawberries for the picnic were much larger and the ones for this post were quite small – you will have to judge how much cream cheese, chocolate and crumbs you will need, depending on the size and amount of the fruit – the recipe below is what I used for the smaller berries. Remember that they don’t take much cream cheese to fill them. These are best at room temperature but do need to be kept in the fridge for the chocolate to firm up. These are perfect for picnics but they are also lovely as a sweet canapé at a summer party.
I am taking these over to Angie’s for Fiesta Friday #27 – that fabulous weekly party where you will leave completely inspired and blown away by the creativity out there. This week, Angie is ably helped by Aussie power duo, Saucy @ Saucy Gander and Margot @ Gather and Graze who are in fancy dress – so I’ve come in flapper gear, doing the Charleston and handing out strawberries!
Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Strawberries
- 400 g punnet of strawberries as even in size as possible
- 100 g cream cheese
- 1 – 2 Tbsp sifted icing (confectioner’s) sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract. or paste
- 70 g of dark or semi sweet chocolate
- 4 – 5 digestive biscuits or graham crackers
- Place the biscuits in a sandwich bag and crush to fine crumbs with a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass. Place the crumbs in a small bowl and set aside.
- Blend the cream cheese with 1 tablespoon of the sifted icing sugar and the vanilla – taste and add more sugar if it’s not sweet enough. Taste your strawberries too – you don’t want an overly sweet stuffing if the berries are very sweet.
- Fit a large holed nozzle onto a piping bag and fill the bag with the cream cheese mixture. Or fill a sandwich bag with the cream cheese – you can snip off a small bit of the corner when you are ready to stuff the strawberries. Place the bag in the fridge while you get on with the strawberries.
- Rinse the strawberries and set aside any that have mushy spots. You can trim those and save them for smoothies, fruit salads etc.
- Using a small paring knife, slice off the strawberry hull or calyx – the leaves.
- Then, using the tip of the paring knife, hollow out from the base by twisting the knife around in a conical circle.
- Place the strawberries on a paper towel lined tray to drain.
- Once they are all hulled and hollowed out, pat the tops of the fruit with another paper towel to dry the surfaces.
- Fill the strawberries with the cream cheese, using the piping or sandwich bag to fill the fruit neatly.
- Either melt the chocolate (in a small bowl) on a low setting in the microwave for 30 second intervals or in a double boiler set-up (a pan of simmering water with the bowl of chocolate set on top but not touching the water). The chocolate should be just melted.
- Using a pickle fork or a toothpick or even your fingers if the strawberries are large enough to hold, dip the ends in the chocolate and then in the crumbs.
- Set on a tray and pop into the fridge for the chocolate to firm up.
- These are best enjoyed at room temperature so take them out at least half an hour before serving. If transporting for picnic then place in a suitable container, packing an icepack underneath the container.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.