JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, June 29, 2007

Strawberry sponge

This week is horrendously busy, and next week will be even more. I live just outside Henley on Thames, where there is a regatta (next week) which draws crews from all over the world. They stay in houses all round the district, and I have put up crews for years.

This year, we have Newport Aquatic Center from California - and one of the team is a very distant cousin (this fact discovered a year or two ago by his uncle and my father, in a huge coincidence which may be too complicated to explain here). Next week they will be joined by London Rowing Club, who have stayed here for a number of years, and won the Thames Cup from the house. I give them breakfast (cereal, toast, juice, fruit, yoghurt), and dinner.

So there's a lot of cooking going on here, great volumes of food for hungry rowers. It's not exactly according to our rules, but not far from it. The main difference is that they eat meat most nights, I haven't given them fish or a veggie meal. So it's mince in various guises, chicken pieces, stews, and, tonight, braised lamb shanks. I give them two or three vegetables to go with their main course, which is how we normally eat. Pudding is either fruit or something I've made involving fruit.

A couple of nights ago there were some strawberries slightly past their best. So I made them into a sponge pudding (Nick, the coach, said he would have called it a cobbler ... I wouldn't quite, although it's in the same area). It was good, the sponge was - by mistake - cooked very slowly, which gave it a toffeeish stickiness that made one or two people think I'd used almonds.

Strawberry sponge


Two punnets of strawberries
a little sugar
the juice of a lemon
Three medium eggs & their weight in sugar, flour, and Flora

Put the strawberries into a saucepan with a little sugar and the lemon juice. Heat through until it all looks glossy. You don't need to cook the fruit, because it will soften as the sponge cooks. Pour them into a well-greased shallow ovenproof dish.

Weigh the eggs (this method is child's play if you use a balance scale, and only slightly more complicated if you don't). Break them into a mixing bowl, and add their weight of sugar, flour and Flora. Beat vigorously until the mixture pales in colour. If you beat it this hard you do not need to use a raising agent (and I don't bother even when I'm making a Victoria sponge cake in this way). Pour this over the strawberries and bake for half an hour in a coolish oven, say 160C. Test with a skewer, or press the middle gently.

This is good hot or cold. If you're eating it hot, it's advisable to leave it to stand for a few minutes, so that you don't burn your tongue on the strawberries.

Delicious. A lovely summer treat, especially for the sort of summer we're having (cold, wet - blah blah whinge whinge). You could use any sort of fruit (I've got some apples no-one seems interested in eating, so I'll make it with those, but I'll have to cook them through properly before covering them with the sponge). This is really good and easy for a crowd. The amounts I've given here would be good for 8-10 people, but you could easily increase or decrease it - just weigh the ingredients against the eggs, and make sure there's enough sponge mix to cover the fruit (it rises a bit, so you need to spread it fairly thin).

Oh, and I forgot to say, Alfred is playing in a cricket tournament at Eton this week, so I had to make time to watch him. The final is going on right now (can't go, got to see the crew in the qualifying races for the main regatta - they're a long way from home, so need all the vocal support they can get!). Here he is bowling, doing that little skip thing that slow bowlers often do.


Mallika said...

Tell me about Henley. My husband's family here all wait for the regatta to kick off the season here. Your strawberries look tantalisingly scrumptious. What if I don't have balancing scales?

And do I weigh the shelled eggs or with the shells on? Sorry if this is a stupid question...

Celia Hart said...

Wow - you must be busy cooking for all those hungry rowers!

I've been making a similar pudding with our gooseberries. But used brown sugar (and a teeny dab of butter - optional) when warming the gooseberries through. The sponge I use is my basic muffin mix made with 5oz plain flour double sifted, teasp baking powder, 1.5oz sugar and 1 egg plus half and half veg oil & skimmed milk to make into thickish batter. Flavour sponge with vanilla - or even better put an elderflower-head in with the gooseberries when you warm them.

I must try your strawberry version.

Joanna said...

Celia, that sounds delicious, I'll do it next week with some other fruit. Thanks for sharing

Mallika - not stupid at all ... just put the egg on the scale, in its shell, and that's the weight needed for the other ingredients. Simple, quick, you don't need to remember any numbers, just the four ingredients. And, of course, you can flavour the sponge - a little vanilla, or citrus zest, or perhaps some coffee (you'd need to make it very strong, because you wouldn't want much liquid), etc. But plain sponge is the best when you've got something as good as strawberries underneath!


Cottage Smallholder said...

Wow, Joanna, you are so energetic. The strawberry sponge looks delicious I bet the rowers adored it.

Best of luck to Alfred with the cricket. He looks very competent.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Totally exciting Joanna. I actually love cooking for a crowd!

Joanna said...

Thanks Fiona - I'll pass that compliment on to Alfred ... sadly, they didn't win yesterday (or, rather, in the words of A's elder brother, "they got thrashed"), although Alfred took a couple of wickets.

I quite agree, Tanna, I'd rather cook for more than less ... I don't think I'd have all these oarsmen to stay otherwise!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I just recently made a strawberry rhubarb sponge pudding. Course, I didn't have a crew of rowers to share it with! Sounds like you're gonna be busy.

Anonymous said...


Your strawberry sponge sounds tempting - will try it today! Thanks


Anonymous said...

I must explain that I could not resist trying out the strawberry sponge - even though there was only one egg left in the house. Hence the lack of sponge in the photo! Even so it was delicious, & we cannot wait to try the full recipe out today.

I hope Alfred was succesful in the final, and did not miss your support too much!

Joanna said...

So glad there are other people who start to make something and then discover they don't have all the ingredients - it's always chaotic here, I just have to make sure it doesn't go over the edge (too often!). Glad you liked it enough to give it a try


David Hall said...

Hi Joanna

Great stuff. It has been a strawberry fest this year hasn't it? I've just put up my latest on our fave red things. Great blog, regular reader and now in my links.

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