Herald of Spring
Spring is finally starting here in London. The 100 denier tights and woolly jumpers have been moved to the top shelf, I’ve dared to bare my ankles and the first spring vegetables are making all the chefs and cooks I know excited about the months ahead. There is something so magic about the first few sunny days of the year in a cold climate, especially after a few weeks of unexpected snow and the wonderfully named Beast from the East.
That said, some of the long-awaited new veg has arrived when there’s still a chill in the air. I’m not ready for the cooling salads of summer yet – here are a few of my favourite things to eat as our gardens come to life again.
In wild garlic season, I pick loads and make it into this pesto (no extra garlic added), which can be kept under a slick of olive oil in the fridge for weeks or in the freezer for much longer. Wild garlic has a strong taste when it’s raw but that mellows when you cook it. If you can’t get your hands on it, a finely chopped clove of garlic and some spinach will stand in; there is no need to soak the garlic or spinach.
These little patties make a delectable dinner out of almost anything. Pulses are used as a binding agent alongside vegetables, herbs and spices to create delicate nests of succulent spring flavours.
The wild garlic really adds something here, that said, you don’t have to use it if you can’t find it near you. If you can get your hands on some, great; if not, you can add a little more rocket and a clove of finely chopped garlic. It won’t taste exactly the same but will still be delicious.
This is a very cheerful dinner. Radishes and potatoes are roasted in a little honey and lemon to exaggerate their sweetness, offset by the crispy roast lentils. I use my favourite spring leaf here, sorrel. Its bright lemony flavour makes you sit up when you take a mouthful. This recipe is everything I want in the winter, brightness that somehow makes your mouth water.
If you can’t get hold of sorrel, scrunch a couple of handfuls of spinach together with the juice of half a lemon and roughly shred. Scatter over the top in place of the sorrel. It won’t be quite as pretty but it will taste great.
I ate a bowl of noodles in LA this winter, in a little neighbourhood restaurant called Pine & Crane, and they were everything I want a bowl of noodles to be. This is my version, with a chilli-spiked peanut sauce with the freshness of cucumber, sugar snaps and coriander. Pea shoots would work here, too. Vegans can swap the egg noodles for rice or thick udon noodles.