Spring, and all its spoils, are blindly well underway.
Tender peas right from their pods, the first slim asparagus, fuzzy coated pods of broad beans and skinny baby leeks are all letting us know there is more green ahead. Food isn't everything in this crisis, but it's a start.
With all of this in mind, I'm sharing two spring recipes. First up, a tart rich in greens that looks as pretty as it tastes. If you plan to eat it over two days, crack the last two eggs the day after you make it and reheat.
The second recipe is a stew that I make when the best of spring is yet to come into our gardens.
As with most cooking at the moment, feel free to swap out things you don't have or need to use up. I've added some suggestions for each.
Easter Egg Tart
Good to feed a few. If there are only 2 of you then 2 portions will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. You could use any green veg you have on hand or even roasted squash in place of the spring veg.
- 5 eggs, fridge-cold
- 320g puff pastry (I used a sheet of ready-rolled all-butter)
- 6 spring onions, trimmed and cleaned
- 6 baby courgettes, quartered lengthways
- Olive oil
- 100g frozen or fresh broad beans or peas
- 150g creme fraiche
- 1 heaped tbsp dijon mustard
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
To finish: herbs, hazelnuts, seeds of your choice
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Crack one of the eggs into a cup with a big pinch of salt, beat well and leave to one side. Fill and boil the kettle.
Spread your puff pastry out on to a cold baking tray and trim off 1cm from each side and set aside. Working quickly, prick the base all over with a fork, and lightly brush with the beaten egg. Add the trimmed edges back on top of the pastry around the edges you cut them from, forming a border, and egg-wash those too.
Put the spring onions and baby courgettes on to a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake, along with the puff-pastry case, for 20-25 minutes until the veg is golden and the pastry is really crisp.
Meanwhile, pour a little boiling water over the baby broad beans, allow them to cool, then pop each one out of its tough outer skin, leaving the bright-green bean inside.
As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven, press down on the middle rectangle of the base (which will have puffed up a little), leaving yourself a nice border around the outside.
Mix the creme fraiche with the mustard, add a little salt and pepper and spread it over the crisp pastry, keeping it within the border.
Arrange the courgettes and spring onions over the base, then make four little spaces to crack the eggs into. Stop here if you are preparing the tart in advance and cover and keep it in the fridge.
When you are nearly ready to eat, take the eggs out of the fridge and really carefully crack each one on to a saucer, then pick up the whole egg, leaving behind as much of the watery white as you can. Gently place each egg in the little wells, sprinkle over the broad beans and bake for 20 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still a little soft.
Remove the tart from the oven, grate over the lemon zest and scatter over the hazelnuts or toppings of your choice.
Early Spring Stew with Baked Ricotta
I've written this to serve 2 people but if you are isolating alone then a portion will keep well in the fridge for a few days.
Makes 2 portions
- 250g baby new potatoes
- 125g tub of ricotta
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- a bunch of basil, leaves picked
- 1 head of small lettuce, such as baby Cos or Little Gem
- 1⁄2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1⁄4 teaspoon runny honey
- 4 of spring onions, finely chopped
- 500ml good vegetable stock
- 500g g fresh or frozen podded broad beans and/or peas
- a couple of bunches of soft herbs, leaves only, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 200oC/180oC fan/gas 6. Halve or quarter any larger potatoes and place them on a baking tray. Make a space in the middle for the ricotta, then upturn the tub of ricotta on to the tray so that it sits in a little mound in the middle.
Season everything with salt and pepper and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Use a spoon to turn the potatoes over to make sure they are coated in the oil and seasonings, then grate over the zest of the lemons, making sure there is plenty of zest on top of the ricotta. Scatter over half the basil leaves. Put the tray into the hot oven to cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut your lettuces into 4 wedges and put them on another tray. In a small bowl, mix together the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the mustard, honey and a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper. Pour the dressing over the lettuce wedges and use your hands to coat them really well. Once the potatoes have had their 20 minutes, add the tray of lettuce to the oven and cook everything for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are brown and the lettuces charred at the edges, then take them out of the oven.
Meanwhile, in a large deep saucepan with a lid, heat a little olive oil on a medium heat, add the chopped spring onions and cook for a couple of minutes until brown at the edges. Add the stock and the olive oil and bring to the boil. Taste the stock, and if you think it needs it, add a little seasoning.
Add the broad beans and peas to the broth and cook for a minute or two, then stir through half the chopped herbs and take off the heat.
To serve, divide the potatoes and lettuce between four bowls, top with the broth, then break or spoon over the ricotta, the rest of the herbs and a drizzle of oil.