Spring has sprung! Arguably this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Leaves are unfurling on trees, flowers are everywhere and the sun is, mostly, winning the game. Time to shed our winter coats and scarves and give our wardrobe a makeover. Our diet would also benefit from a little spring clean – and there’s so many wonderful seasonal products to focus on right now. Some are available for a very limited time, so make the most of them while at their peak.
Star performers in April have got to be asparagus, sprouting broccoli and rhubarb. There are so many wonderful ways to incorporate them into lighter spring dishes. Asparagus and sprouting broccoli are best simply steamed, but also work well in tarts, soups and pasta dishes. Rhubarb has such a short season it’s worth pouncing on the bright ruby stalks the minute they make an appearance in the grocery store. Rhubarb is fantastic in pies and crumbles, but can also be used in savoury dishes – it pairs well with pork in particular. Boil rhubarb, sugar and vanilla, strain and reserve the syrup to enjoy in cocktails and soft drinks, or spoon over vanilla ice cream. Add the cooked rhubarb in porridge and yoghurt to liven up your breakfast.
The main greens worth seeking out are kale and spinach – I add them to almost everything, from soups, to salads, pesto and curries. But watercress, rocket, spring onions and radishes are also in season and as the weather gets warmer, I love having a green salad for lunch.
New potato season
Almost unavoidable in April and May and incredibly delicious with it? It’s new potato season! Jersey Royals are the most well-known variety; simply boil and serve with butter and freshly ground salt and pepper - no need to peel. Another way to cook them is roasted in the oven with some rosemary – a perfect side to roast lamb. Use cold new potatoes in salads, frittatas and breakfast hash.
If you love foraging, wild garlic, dandelions and nettles are all growing in abundance. Wild garlic is especially delicious turned into pesto, while dandelions can be wilted and served with a little vinegar and olive oil or used fresh in salads. Make sure you pick the young leaves as the older ones can be bitter. Nettles are a bit of a dangerous sport – wear thick protective gloves and pick the top four leaves of the plants. The sting is neutralised once nettles are boiled or blanched so you can use nettles as you would spinach, or even steep them to make nettle tea. If you do go foraging, make sure you avoid patches too close to the road as well as areas that have been sprayed with pesticides.
It’s hard to say any particular meat is in season as most are available year-round with the exception of wild game. Spring lamb is available from February through to June and is very tender. Boned lamb shoulder and leg cooks a lot quicker and is easier to carve. Look out for butterflied leg of lamb, which is excellent on the barbecue (hopefully it will be BBQ season soon!). Thinly sliced, it is delicious in Asian-style salads or served with a spicy chilli jam.
Unlike meat, there’s definite seasonality to seafood. April is particularly good for crab, clams, scallops, oysters and mussels. Moules marinières may sound fancy but it is incredibly easy to prepare; all you need are shallots, herbs and a little wine or cider. My favourite way to serve scallops is pan seared with a little garlic butter - it makes for an incredibly easy but impressive starter. Make crab linguine to share with friends and family – it can be very messy but is out-of-this-world delicious!
There’s also plenty of fish to choose from: sea bream and haddock, wild salmon, pike and sardines are all available in April and May. Make friends with your local fishmonger or buy online – many coastal fishmongers now offer next day delivery with ‘discovery’ boxes offering a selection of fresh seafood from the morning market. Fresh fish doesn’t need fancy preparation and it can be steamed, grilled, barbecued or fried.
Lucy Parissi is a London-based designer, food photographer, coffee fanatic and cocktail appreciator. She is also the food-obsessed blogger behind Supergolden Bakes.