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Find a P.Y.O. and really appreciate a vintage tasting English strawberry

Lee Bye's Italian Meringue
Lee Bye's Italian Meringue

After collecting my last bunch of Gary Tilbrooke’s asparagus it was another year over for what seemed such a short cameo for our English plant.

I think cold nights were mainly to blame for that. With warmer days hopefully ahead the team and I at the mill now look forward to the English strawberry season. Strawberry sales in super markets are expected to hit 50 million pounds sales this year and I can only imagine the production of most of the berries are worked hard to maximise the majority of them sales.

Lee Bye. Picture by Ben Meadows
Lee Bye. Picture by Ben Meadows

I prefer smaller production and focus on flavour rather than uniformed and diluted methods of farming and harvesting.

As with all of the menu here at the mill I always look to source something a little bit special to marry together the ingredients. Assington Farm strawberries from Sudbury have arrived and the taste is something only nostalgia can explain. They really do taste the way I remember strawberries always did and should, plump and bursting with juice and a full bodied coat of red. I’m a strong believer in doing small things with great love and the production methods of the fruit at Assington Farm are just that – ‘slowly grown, simple production and deliciosness in mind’.

Our approach is always flavour driven first and then method driven secondary working a science to bring the two together to achieve purity of flavour.

At the restaurant we are serving the red berry with an orange, English coastal berry called sea buckthorn. A stringent, usually over looked berry which has been juiced down and passed. We make a classic curd with eggs and sugar and pack it against toasted Italian meringue, lemon thyme and pistachio nuts. I love the flavours collectively but the piece de resistance is the Suffolk strawberries humbly nurtured in Assington. This weekend take a trip out and find a P.Y.O or head over to Assington and really appreciate a vintage tasting English strawberry.

These are the real deal.


A beautiful alternative to the meringue nest

A Kitchen Aid will be required or a good quality electric hand whisk along with a temperature probe

For the egg base:

100 grams egg white (approx 3 large eggs)

40 grams white caster sugar

For the sugar syrup mix:

170g white caster sugar

45g water


Place the egg whites and small measure of caster into the mixing bowl. Begin to boil the sugar syrup and when it is measured at 110c start to whisk the egg mixture. Once the sugar syrup is at 117c remove from the heat and turn down the whisk to a slow setting. Be careful as the syrup is extremely hot.

Once the sugar syrup stops bubbling slowly add in a straight pouring motion into the egg mix. Ensure the whisk is on a slow setting. Once all the sugar syrup is incorporated turn the whisk up to full speed. When the bottom of the bowl is cold the meringue is ready. Store in fridge in a piping bag till ready to use.

The mixture will be at its best for the next three hours. I blow torch mine to give a marshmallow texture but simply piped is still on the money.

-- Lee Bye is head chef at Tuddenham Mill. Follow Lee on Twitter: @leebyechef

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