Lesley says: "In July we are slap bang in the middle of strawberry season. It's rather extended these days, thanks to poly tunnels, but walk through any market in July and your eye is sure to be caught by a striking pile of red often taking centre stage in the beautiful displays.
"I may be biased, but British strawberries are without a doubt the best. Avoid all foreign imports and buy small to medium, unblemished fruits for great flavour. As with many fruits and vegetables, strawberries are best eaten as fresh as possible. With this in mind, buy directly from local farmers markets or look out for the opportunity to pick your own. It's great fun for all the family and you may save a few pennies too.
Back in the kitchen, strawberries, like most berries, should be washed with care and handled gently to avoid bruising. If you don't intend to use them at once, store them (unwashed and uncut) in the fridge, but not for too long. Very importantly, make sure you bring them back to room temperature before eating to appreciate their full flavour.
"If you need extra sweetness, strawberries are fabulous dipped in a little vanilla sugar or if you're looking for an unusual alternative to a drizzle of cream, why not try them with a sprinkling of good syrupy balsamic vinegar or a grind of black pepper.
"Back in my days at Leith's we used to serve up strawberry vinaigrette with avocado pear - very 1980's, but I am known to still to whiz it up its one of my all time favourites.
Avocado Pear with Basil and Strawberry Vinaigrette
- 2 ripe avocado pears
- approx 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 200g strawberries hulled halved and diced
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- pinch sugar
- 2 tablespoons thick syrupy balsamic vinegar
- 4 sprigs fresh basil, leaves
- In a small bowl gently combine the olive oil, strawberries, sugar , balsamic and season with salt , freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cut the avocado pears in half and stone and peel.
- Slice finely or cut into a fan!
- Lay the avocado onto 4 white plates spoon on the strawberry vinaigrette scatter over the basil leaves and season again with black pepper. Serve with brown bread and butter.
Pineapple and Chilled Strawberries with Smoked Chicken Platter
- 1 medium sweet ripe pineapple
- 1 large red chilli, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
- 30ml (2tbsp) runny honey
- 2 oranges, juice only
- 170g (6oz) strawberries , un hulled and halved
- 140g (5oz) cooked, smoked chicken, finely shredded
For the relish:
- 100g (3½ oz) flaked almonds, toasted
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp mint, chopped
- 15ml/1tbsp extra olive oil
- Cut both ends off the pineapple and with a knife cut away the skin, then quarter and remove the core from each wedge. Cut each wedge in half giving 8 wedges in total.
- Place the pineapple wedges in a bowl add the strawberries, chilli, honey and orange juice. Toss gently and set aside for 10 minutes to marinate.
- Meanwhile, combine all the relish ingredients season to taste and set to one side .
- Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat. Remove the pineapple wedges from the marinade, reserving the liquid and strawberries, and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side or until lightly charred. Arrange onto 4 serving plates or on a large chopping board. Top with the smoked chicken and relish
- Pour the reserved marinade and strawberries into the pan and allow to bubble of the heat for a few seconds. Drizzle the hot chilled strawberry dressing over the pineapple and chicken and serve.
The Ultimate Strawberry Tart
- 320g puff pastry ready rolled
- 450g cream cheese (sweetened with a little icing sugar as required)
- 500g strawberries, hulled
- 4 passion fruit
- 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons redcurrant jelly & splash water
- Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/ 200C/400F.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the ready rolled pastry onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Trim up the edges to neaten. Using a small sharp knife, cut a picture frame style border all the way round cutting halfway through the pastry. Prick the inside of the border, liberally, with a fork.
- Brush the frame carefully with the egg. Bake for 10 -15 minutes or until cooked. If the centre rises up, gently push down with a fish slice.
- Place the cool pastry case onto a large wooden board. Beat the cream cheese with the passion fruit until soft & creamy add a little icing sugar to taste. Pile this mixture into the cooled pastry case and level off.
- Heat the redcurrant jelly in a pan with the water until smooth. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve to remove any lumps. Set to one side to cool slightly.
- Arrange the strawberries over the passion fruit cream and brush lightly with the redcurrant glaze. Serve on a chopping board .
Summer Strawberry Spritzer with Cucumbr and Mint
- 2 unwaxed lemons, washed
- 2 limes, washed
- 185g (6oz)caster sugar
- 600mls (1 pint) boiling water
- 300mls (1/2 pint) sparkling water, chilled
- 200g small strawberries
- ¼ cucumber thinly sliced
- small bunch of mint leaves
- lime slices & ice to serve
- Using a potato peeler, peel the zest from the lemons and limes. Place in a large bowl with the sugar, pour over the boiling water, stir, cover and leave to cool.
- Squeeze the juice from the fruit and add to the cooled liquid.
- Place the strawberries, cucumber and mint into a jug strain over the lemon & lime drink pour in the sparkling water. Add some ice and serve at once.
Elder Flower Champagne Cup
- Half fill some old style iced champagne glasses with some strawberries and top with elder flower champagne or elder flower presse finish with sprigs of mint
- 4 large ripe strawberries hulled
- juice 1 lime
- 5 tablespoons white rum
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar or to taste
- cup of ice cubes
- Blend all the ingredients in a blender at a high speed until frothy. Pour straight away into a chilled glass and serve.