A sure sign of summer being on its way is the appearance of strawberries. I have been impatiently waiting for my local strawberry farm to open its doors. Beautiful berries are appearing all around town but I don't think they taste nearly as good as the ones I buy up the road. Maybe it is the absence of plastic coverings and then knowing as you choose your punnet you can see the berries being picked in the fields outside the shed doors. The second grade berries are priced accordingly and often look a little wonky, but are perfect for recipes where the berries don't have to look pretty - and they often seem to taste better.
Strawberries lend themselves to fresh classic recipes with no mucking about, to ensure their flavour stays true.
A buttery shortcake is lovely, old-fashioned and evokes images of summer and picnics on the lawn. This is usually made as one large piece, but I always find it difficult to slice without it resulting in a rather splodgy mess, plus it is a treat to make individual ones that your guests can have all to themselves.
A delicate shortcake sandwiched with a little jam, whipped cream and plenty of strawberries is delish. Make sure you use butter both for flavour and to guarantee the right "short" texture.
There was a time when strawberries were commonly included in chicken salads which never tickled my fancy and ruined for me the thought of strawberries being used in a savoury dish. After a bit of experimenting, however, I think pairing them with tender slices of rare venison, toasted pistachios and sweet well-aged balsamic is a winner. The flavours and textures work well and look gorgeous.
I haven't thought of icecream sandwiches for ages but while perusing the supermarket shelves the other day saw the wafers and bought them for the children. I remember trying to put as much icecream between the wafers as possible and licking the drips around the edges.
Thinking about the flavours of strawberries, vanilla and coconut, I decided to give the idea of homemade strawberry icecream sandwiched between crisp and slightly chewy coconut wafers, a go. Delicious and fun to make - for all ages.
Strawberries are best eaten as soon as they're picked, the flavour warmed by the sun. If they need to be stored for a few days don't opt for the fridge, which alters the flavour and encourages mould. Instead, store them in a dark and cool spot such as a pantry.
* For more of Amanda Laird's fabulous recipes, visit foodhub.co.nz.