Botanical definitions aside, what we commonly refer to as berries are small, fleshy and brightly coloured fruits. The name stems from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to shine’, and from the juicy blueberries that ooze out of Finnish buns, to the strawberries crowning a Mexican meringue cake and the jewel-like barberries that stud fragrant Iranian rice, these glistening orbs do just that in dishes the world over.
Laura Venuto

22 Sep 2014 - 9:46 PM  UPDATED 22 Sep 2014 - 9:46 PM


Translating to 'arranged at the bottom', this traditional Persian dish features crisp saffron-infused rice layered with chicken, yoghurt and tangy barberries (zereshk). These tiny ruby-coloured berries were especially popular in England and Europe in medieval times, and are still common in Persian cooking. They are frequently used to flavour rice dishes, and often feature in wedding banquets – the sourness of the berries serving to remind the newlyweds that life isn't always sweet. Tahchin is often made for special occasions, and the most beloved part of the dish is the bottom layer of rice (known as tahdig), which becomes crisp and crunchy as it bakes against the hot pan.

Blackberry and apple pie
This is the pie Brits grew up with, combining the comforting winter flavours of tart blackberries with sweet Bramley apples. Blackberry foraging has been going on for around 8000 years, and is still a pastime enjoyed in many woodlands around Britain, with the plucked fruits making their way into many pies and puddings. While Bramleys aren’t widely available here, Granny Smiths make an ideal substitute. You will need a 24 cm pie dish for this recipe.

Blueberry buns (mustikkapiiraat)
Berries herald the arrival of summer in Finland, and the fruits of the northern forests include lingonberries, cloudberries, and bilberries, which are wild blueberries, often used to make the famous mustikkapiirakka (Finnish blueberry pie). These buns are similar to the pie, but are often eaten for breakfast with coffee. The sticky blueberry topping oozes over the dough, which is dotted with raisins and laced with cardamom – a popular spice in baked treats throughout the Nordic countries.

Czech Republic
Raspberry 'bubble' cake (bublanina)
This light and airy cake studded with seasonal berries is a Czech favourite, often served as a breakfast pastry or light summer dessert. Similar to the French clafoutis, it is made using whatever fruit is most plentiful at the time – blueberries, cherries, strawberries, plums and raspberries are favourites. The name bublanina comes from the Czech word for 'bubble', so it is often referred to as 'bubble cake', likely because of the way the batter bubbles up around the fruit while cooking.

Strawberry risotto (risotto alle fragole)
Strawberries have been used in Italian cooking as far back as ancient Rome, where they were often used to add extra flavour to meats and pulses. Today, Roman strawberries are still considered the best, with Lago di Nemi, a small town in the Roman hills, thought to produce the most flavoursome strawberries in the country. This tart risotto has a surprisingly savoury flavour, similar to tomato, and is served for lunch or dinner rather than as a dessert.

Strawberry meringue cake (mostachon de fresa)
Think pavlova, Mexican-style. Believed to have originated in Monterrey in Mexico's north-east, mostachon is a traditional meringue cake, which typically includes crushed plain biscuits and walnuts in the meringue to create an extra crisp base. The topping is dependent on whatever fruit is in season, but sliced strawberries make for an especially pretty finish.



Photography Brett Stevens


As seen in Feast magazine, February 2014, Issue 28. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.