A summer Bellini usually means one thing; peaches. Except in this instance, its only June and in my fair opinion the doughnut peaches don’t yet have the flavour needed for this apero.
What I do have is strawberries; a glorious abundance after a blissful afternoon spent at the nearby West Green fruit farm. Warm but overcast it was perfect picking weather and the neat little straw-sandwiched rows beckoned.
I returned home with large punnets intended for jam but had worked up such a thirst that a cooling drink was the first thing that sprang to mind. I bruised some strawberries in the bottom of a glass and added a very dry prosecco. Sure, it was tasty, but it needed refining; the strawberries hadn’t imparted any depth of colour and soft fruit floated on the surface.
So below is a thought (I hesitate to use the word recipe because it’s more about the process of bringing together) about apero’clock.
1 bottle of dry prosecco or cava
Take 1/2 kilo of strawberries, washed and hulled, and pile them into a pudding basin. Cover with clingfilm and place into a high-sided saucepan, adding boiling water until it reaches half-way up the bowl; this is your bain-marie. Place the saucepan on the stove and simmer for an hour or until the strawberries have released their juices.
Remove from the heat and using a sieve, strain the strawberries. You can use the back of a spoon to gently press the juice from the fruit; you want a clear liquid and pressing too hard will break-down the fruit and give you a strawberry pulp instead. At this stage you can add your basil leaves to the warm juice. I used 8 large leaves to give a subtle and delicate hint of anise but you can vary this depending on how strong you want the flavour. The strawberry juice will keep, covered, for a couple of days in the fridge; any excess could be made into jelly with the addition of a little sugar and gelatine.
When it comes to preparing your evening cocktail, ensure your sparkling wine (be it cava, prosecco or champagne) is adequately chilled; select beautiful glassware and place a small amount of strawberry juice into the bottom of each glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with a basil leaf or strawberry.
Best enjoyed in the setting sunshine, preferably with a plate of chicchetti.