Cherries hail the arrival of the summer season, and are one of my favourite fruit…Recently in fact, I have literally stuffed my face with plenty of them, here in London and when visiting Italy. In Sardinia for example, we picked up a local, small and dark variety which was absolutely fantastic, while often, especially when buying from big chain supermarkets, I end up disappointed with cherries that lack in flavour. Basically, varieties of cherry make a huge difference in their taste and enjoyment.
Size is not important
It is easy to find Spanish cherries in London, but I was not familiar with the variety called Jerte Picota, which are from the inner region of Extremadura and have a very short season, between end of June and beginning of August. They have obtained the DOP status given their unique, sweet taste and specific geographical origin. They are smaller than the average cherry, dark in colour and have no stalk, as this stays on the tree when they are picked. Since I had never heard of them before I welcomed the opportunity to join a dinner held at Iberica Victoria to celebrate this very special Spanish fruit.
The menu had been created by the Iberica group head chef showcasing the versatility of the Picota in savoury as well as sweet dishes. Matching wines were from small, independent producers and not available in London to add to the occasion. With a great group of fellow bloggers, we started off very well with a stunning, beautifully colourful Picota cherries gazpacho with soft cheese ice cream, anchovy and mint. This was by far my favourite dish of the night, and the addition of small pieces of salted anchovies was inspired.
They are grown using traditional methods among mountains of over 6,000 feet, on fertile soil, watered by crystal-clear streams and in the purest air.
A couple of non cherried tapas followed, a classic jamon croqueta and a really good Green asparagus toast with Manchego, onion confit and truffle oil, both available on the regular Iberica menu.
They were followed by Pan seared tuna with almond cream Ajoblanco and pickled Picota cherries: I found the tuna dish very light, well seared and seasoned, and I enjoyed the contrast of the almond cream (very subtle, and not overpowering the rest at all) and the pickled cherries which added a touch of acidify.
Ibérico grilled pork pluma with apple purée and Picota cherries sauce came next, the pork was well cooked and juicy and while I found the apple puree a bit too sweet, I loved the cherry sauce which was deep, rich and complemented the meat extremely well.
They are hand-picked using chestnut baskets, following age-old traditions.
The dessert looked very pretty and very pink and of course featured the cherries again, this time in their ‘expected’ enviroment: Picota cherries crema Catalana foam. The foam was as light as air and the cherry powder on the top as well as the cherry sorbet at the bottom added texture and colours. Since as usual I was riding, I only had some of the matching wines, but the dessert match, a Nectar Pedro Jimenez DO Jerez, was fantastic: dark, deep and decadent and very sweet.
Overall a great dinner showcasing this special fruit; while I am still partial to those Sardinian ones, I found the Picota very delicate and with a good balance of sweet and tart.
Look out for Picota Cherries in Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury during July and August.
I dined as a guest of Jerte Picota cherries; I was not asked to write this post, opinions are my own