A few weeks ago I was invited along to a blogger dinner to experience how Jerte Picota cherries could be showcased in dishes. Whilst delicious just to eat on their own, cherries make fabulous sauces as well being used in some unusual ways (read below to see what I mean!).
Jerte Picota P.D.O (Protected Designation of Origin) cherries are grown, harvested and packed under rigorous quality controlled procedures and come exclusively from the Jerte Valley in Spain (South-West of Madrid in the Caceres region). They are also only in season for 6 weeks – June to August – and can be found in Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
What’s unique about them is that when you buy them they don’t have stalks as the cherry naturally comes away from the stalk when it’s ripe. They also have a slight peak at their base, hence the name ‘Picota’ which means ‘peaked’. They are also harvested by hand.
We were invited to Ibérica in Victoria to experience a five course menu, which was devised by César Garcia, the Group Head Chef of Ibérica Restaurants. First though, we were invited to try the Jerte Picota cherries with a glass of cava. They are slightly sweeter and smaller than ordinary cherries and a deep, rich red colour.
Once everyone had arrived and enjoyed tasting the cherries with a glass of cava, we were introduced to chef Luis Contreras who explained each course we were about to devour as well as explaining more about the uniqueness of the cherry.
The first course was one I really wasn’t expecting… Picota cherries gazpacho with soft cheese ice-cream, anchovy and mint. I’ve only had a traditional gazpacho a couple of times and I really like it. This version was much sharper due to the cherries but so flavoursome. And the colour was just stunning! The soft cream ice-cream was such a clever touch and really elevated the dish.
The second course didn’t actually showcase any cherries but was more about a celebration of the types of dishes that Ibérica does. I’m a big fan of Ibérica and have been to four of their branches and returned frequently. We had sharing plates of Croquetas de Jamon and green asparagus toast with Manchego cheese, onion confit and truffle oil. OH MY. So, so good….
Next up was a fish course of pan seared tuna with almond cream Ajoblanco (a cold Spainish soup) and pickled Picota cherries. The tuna was cooked to perfection and the pickled cherries were a delight. They gave the dish a bit of zing!
The meat course was hands down my favourite. Ibérico grilled pork pluma with apple puree and Picota cherries sauce. The pluma is a cut of the pork which is found at the bottom end of the loin. It’s the pork equivalent to a flank of beef and is succulent and tender. It was phenomenal! My only wish was that it had come with a bit of starch, such as some potato puree. The Picota cherries sauce worked beautifully with the pork and I made sure there wasn’t a drop left on my plate.
The last course of the night was, of course, dessert. A Picota cherries crema Catalana foam, which was like a very light mousse. It was slightly too sweet for my personal taste but I still wolfed it down!
I had a wonderful evening drinking fabulous wine, eating amazing food and chatting with lovely fellow food bloggers. And of course learning about, and tasting, the Jerte Picota P.D.O cherries was the cherry on the cake. They are available in supermarkets until the beginning of August so make sure to try them.