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Spring is here and so is spring food.

Wed, 19 April, 2017

Spring food: asparagus, strawberries, asparagus, samphire, lamb, new potatoes, asparagus. I love spring of course, who doesn’t? All that stuff is low calorie and low carbs as well; strawberries positively help you lose weight, asparagus is calorie-negligible and it makes your wee smell nice on top of that. The only problem with spring is short sleeves exposing sausage-like arms and shorts exposing pasty pins…

I recently discovered rhubarb so I am going to include it in my April-May menu. I used to disdain it completely: sour, stringy, mushy-when-cooked unwieldy fruit. And it’s not even fruit; it’s a herbaceous perennial if you please, so it belongs in the flower beds not in the kitchen. And it’s related to celery – another stalk fit pretty much only to be plunged in a Bloody Mary. But it appears rhubarb has some flavour and its mushiness can be utilised by pureeing it and adding to smoothies, puddings and fools. Isn’t it nice to discover a new foodstuff?

I’m off to the coast tomorrow and all set to look for some sea purslane or even wild samphire. No idea whether I’ll recognise the right stuff as I’m not much of a forager. The best I can do is mushrooms, which are not abundant in England. And wild garlic. Foraged from my garden.

I’m not sure if many people realise how seasonal fish and seafood is: crab, sea trout and lobster have been scarce around the Isles so far and it looks like I’ve picked a good time for my trip. In North America by the way it will be crayfish and mackerel and the latter is such an underrated, gorgeous fish. It fillets well and gets pan fried beautifully, you can stuff it with samphire for a posh dinner party (and your guests will demand nothing else in the future) or bake whole pretending it’s a salad: drizzled with olive oil, balsamic and lemon.

Lamb is controversial: similarly to strawberries, local is the best. And so we wait for the new season British and then complain it’s bland and flavourless. Wise people say it’s the best in June and July, when the meat gains a little maturity, but tradition says there should be new lamb for Easter – go figure.

And then there’s new spinach, and sorrel which no one knows how to handle: sauce or soup I say. No good for mush else it’s so acidic. And if you’re lucky enough to buy new beets with tops and leaves still on, just cook them like chard or spinach and you’ll thank me – one of the best ever pastries I’ve had was an onion and beet tops pie. I think it was in Corsica. They don’t chuck out the best part of a produce there. And they introduce you to the langouste you’ll be having for dinner – but that’s another story…

 

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