Read our latest recipe in Sherborne Times pages 64-65
As a cook, the change in seasons always evokes excitement. A renewed energy to create flavoursome dishes from produce that is re-appearing in the kitchen. This can be a humble vegetable that has been grown with tender care and harvested at the very beginning of its season or perhaps an artisan ingredient that has a taste so distinct it provokes a food memory so vivid and lucid you may be mistaken that it happened only yesterday. Growing up on my Grandfather’s farm, rich Channel Island cream and golden yellow butter are two indulgent treats that instantly transport me to a place that was my sanctuary. Nowadays learning the producer’s story behind a newly discovered artisan product or listening to fellow chefs share the delight in the flavour of a heritage fruit brings a simple yet fulfilling pleasure to every day life.
It is no surprise that May is celebrated, we are now at the height of spring and all around the blossoms on the fruit trees are creating an abundant picture, English asparagus is plentiful and our kitchen garden has tender pickings of radish and rocket every few days or so.
Later in the month there will be elderflower in the hedgerows. Gather some now and use to flavour vinegars, cordial or make a sorbet. Leave some behind so that they can develop into fruit for the autumn as the berries make one of the best of jellies to serve with game.
Tender broad beans sometimes known as fava beans are now just beginning to swell in their ‘heavy duty’ protective pods. Preparation takes time and more often than not you may only find a couple of fully developed beans in each. The taste is worth the effort but it is probably best to grow your own if at all possible. Picked straight from your garden along with some summer savoury you will have everything you need to create a mid-week risotto.
The days are longer and we are taking every opportunity that we can to eat outside in the garden. Relaxed and informal dining with friends means long lazy, weekend lunches to make the very most of the warm weather. Large platters allowing everyone to pass and share also lend themselves to outdoor eating.
Try roasting a couple of medium sized beetroots, give them a good scrub under the tap, then trim off the top and tail. Cut into equal sized wedges, place in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season the beets with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast until tender and allow to cool. Meanwhile drain a can of chick peas reserving a little of the liquid, finely zest and juice an unwaxed lemon and crush a clove or two of garlic. Blitz everything together in a blender or food processor with a tablespoon of tahini and a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout or ground cumin if you prefer. Add a generous glug of olive oil and some of the reserved liquid to create your preferred consistency check for seasoning and serve with radish and young carrots to dip into.
Other seasonal treats
Sorrel – not so widely used as in years gone by but we grow this forgotten herb to pair with eggs or to add to a rich sauce and serve with fish.
Rocket – deliciously peppery and easy to grow in the garden or in a pot beside the back door. Ideal with cured hams or add to a salad with parmesan alongside a lemon and olive oil dressing.