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An extract from The Art & Science of Foodpairing: 10,000 flavour matches that will transform the way you eat.

Strawberries are the world’s most widely consumed berry. There are hundreds of commercially grown cultivars, each with its own characteristic taste and aroma profile, but the variety that most of us are familiar with is a hybrid of the American Woodland cultivar, which has an intense fruity aroma, and the West Coast American Pine strawberry, which contains distinct pineapple notes.

These fragrant berries contain low concentrations of furaneol, a compound that is naturally present in many fruits, including strawberries and pineapple, which is why it is also known as strawberry furanone and pineapple ketone. As strawberries ripen, the concentration of furaneol increases, and they develop even more of a fruity, caramellic fragrance.

Found in everything from coffee and chocolate to cooked meat, dark beer and soy sauce, furaneol is one of the most universally liked compounds. It is even present in breast milk, which might explain why humans have such a natural affinity for it. Depending on the concentration of furaneol molecules, an ingredient’s aroma profile will change from fruity and strawberry or pineapple-like to caramellic and candyfloss-ish with a
savoury nuance.

Many of the key aroma molecules are formed by enzymatic reactions that can also be triggered by bruising or heating. This is why cooking strawberries is another way to increase the amount of furaneol – just think about what happens when you simmer them to make delicious preserves. When we apply heat to strawberries, we see a sharp spike in the number of fruity scented strawberry furanones and caramellic furaneol molecules, along with other floral, cheesy-buttery and nutty notes. This transformation happens when you simmer, bake or grill any fruit, not just strawberries.

Bowl with stainless steel spoon in cold gazpacho soup

Foodpairing recipe: strawberry gazpacho with crab
Tomatoes and strawberries share a rosy fragrance because their aroma profiles both contain the molecule betadamascenone.

So for this fruity twist on gazpacho, the classic chilled Andalusian soup usually made with ripe summer tomatoes, red bell pepper and cucumber, we used fresh strawberries in the place of red bell peppers and paired the dish with sweet crab meat.

Briefly cook the fresh crab meat in a hot frying pan with olive oil, seasoning it with sea salt, black pepper and a pinch of grated lime zest at the end. Arrange the crab on a serving plate with some spoonfuls of the tomato and strawberry gazpacho, then add a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with a few fresh edible rose petals and salad burnet leaves to bring out the cucumber and floral notes in the gazpacho.

  • The Art and Science of Foodpairing - Peter Coucquyt, Bernard Lahousse, Johan Langenbick

    This groundbreaking new book explains why the food combinations we know and love work so well together (strawberries and chocolate, for example) and opens up a whole new world of delicious pairings (strawberries and parmesan, say) that will transform the way we eat.

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