450g / 1lb ripe firm strawberries free from blemishes
625g / 1lb6ozgranulated sugar
At least 3 weeks ahead: start making the Crystallized Strawberries:
ON DAY 1 – wash the fruit in cold water, do not hull. Place in a large shallow bowl, but do not heap the strawberries up too much to avoid squashing the fruit at the bottom. Prepare a syrup by dissolving 175g / 6oz sugar very slowly in 300ml / ½pint of water, stirring continuously with a metal spoon. Bring to the boil and pour the syrup over the fruit, making sure that the fruit is covered completely. Leave to soak for a full 24 hours.
ON DAY 2 – drain off the syrup into a saucepan and add another 50g / 2oz sugar. Dissolve it slowly over gentle heat, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil and pour the syrup back over the fruit. Leave to soak for another 24 hours.
ON DAYS 3 TO 7 – repeat the draining and boosting of the soaking syrup with another 50g / 2oz of sugar every day for the next 5 days, so that the syrup gradually gets stronger and stronger.
ON DAY 8 – drain off the syrup and add 85g / 3oz of sugar (instead of 50g / 2oz.you have been adding up to now). Dissolve it and then add the fruit to the syrup in the pan. Simmer gently for 3–4 minutes. Carefully return the fruit and syrup to the bowl. Leave to soak for a full 48 hours.
ON DAY 10 – repeat the same procedure with 85g / 3oz of sugar. Then add the orange-flower water and leave to soak for 4 full days. This is the last soaking and you can leave it longer if you wish, up to about 2 weeks. The fruit becomes sweeter and sweeter the longer it is left. Finally drain off the syrup and spread the pieces of fruit out on a wire rack. Place the rack on a tray and cover the fruit without touching it -use an inverted roasting tin, a tent of foil, a plastic box, anything to protect it from dust and flies etc. Leave the fruit in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard or a warm corner of the kitchen, until thoroughly dry about 2 or 3 days. Turn each piece 2 or 3 times while drying. When completely dry, carefully pack the candied fruits in boxes, with waxed paper or parchment between each layer.
At least the day before, make the Elderflower Sorbet: warm all the ingredients together in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Mix well and let cool. Freeze in a sorbetière or in a suitable container in the freezer, taking out at regular intervals and mixing to break up the crystals.
On the day you want to serve the dish, about 4 hours ahead, first make the pastry: in a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, flour and icing sugar and work to crumbs. Add the cream and egg yolk to the mixture, stir in but do not overwork. Allow to rest for 1 hour.
When then pastry has rested, preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas 3. On a floured surface, roll it out and use to line a 23-cm / 9-inch flan tin. Line with baking paper, weight with beans and bake blind for 20-25 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and allow to cool.
Make the custard: preheat the oven to 130°C/275°F/gas 1. Put the cream and milk in a pan with the vanilla and bring to the boil.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale. Pour on the boiling cream and milk, sieve and skim. Stir in the cornflour and rosewater essence.
Pour into the baked pastry case and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the custard is just set. Allow to cool before serving.
Allow the sorbet to ‘ripen’ in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before you plan to serve the dish.
Serve the custard, cut into wedges, with sorbet on the side, decorated with the crystallized strawberries.