Take a look at our latest feature in the Sherborne Times magazine.
Spring has arrived bringing glorious sunshine, blue skies and seasonal treats. Look out for forgotten favourites like Sorrel, make the most of locally grown asparagus and keep an eye out for the first of the elderflowers.
During May it takes steely concentration for me to remain indoors beside the computer. I am desperate to be in the garden. As much as I love describing the joy in preparing the first asparagus to be served dripping with chervil butter, or my excitement of tender rhubarb harvested from the garden and served for breakfast within half an hour, my thoughts are constantly outside. There is so much to be done in readiness for the warmer months ahead but already the kitchen garden is plentiful. Look out for:
Garden or outdoor rhubarb
Cut into equal pieces and poach in a light syrup infused with rose water. Serve with chopped pistachios and Greek style yoghurt for breakfast or fold into whipped cream with orange zest and finely chopped candied ginger for a decadent fool.
Plunge the spears in boiling salted water but leave unattended at your peril. Cook quickly in small batches and refresh in cold water if you are cooking for a crowd. Better still brush with a little olive oil, then roast on a baking tray in a hot oven (180 C) for 4-6 minutes depending on the thickness of the spears. Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices or add a piece of pan fried plaice for a celebration dinner.
Carefully wipe the skins or scrub if really necessary. Boil quickly in just enough salted water to cover them. Add some fresh mint which is growing rampantly in the garden. If you do not have any, you would be most welcome to a root of mine! Meanwhile make a simple vinaigrette, drain the potatoes well but leave in the pan. Whilst the potatoes are still warm add the dressing and mix well. Serve with slow-roasted shoulder of lamb studded with garlic and a watercress salad.
The highly scented but delicate flowers will start to appear in the hedgerows at the end of the month. Gather some away from the roadside and give each a shake to remove insects before gently washing in the kitchen. Steep in syrup with lemon juice to create your own cordial or freeze for a refreshing sorbet. If you do not have a sweet tooth, infuse some heads in white wine vinegar to create a delicious dressing. Do not pick all of the flower heads, instead be patient and watch the remaining develop into berries, bursting with Vitamin C when ripe, they will make the most delicious jelly to enjoy in the autumn.
One of my favourite spring greens but often overlooked, the upright and pointed leaves in our patch have been peeping through frosted ground since late February and despite giving regular pickings are flourishing. Gently wilt washed and torn leaves with a little butter to add a citrus, almost astringent note to fish and egg dishes. Try adding a little to a goose egg omelette for lunch or serve beside a poached hen egg to start the day. For a smart dinner, make a simple sauce, start with a roux base, add hot fish stock, wine and then enrich with cream. Add the sorrel at the last moment and serve alongside a salmon fishcake or two.
Tips for the perfect poached egg
Use the freshest egg – ideally free range or organic
The water should be a gentle simmer and not boiling
Add a little distilled vinegar – this helps the albumen set instead of disperse in the water
Cook one egg at a time, adding carefully within a vortex you have created in the pan
Drain the egg well before serving on a warm plate