I've been looking longingly at my summer clothes- and at summer recipes- and this week I cracked.
I put on a skirt and let my legs see the fresh air ( this clout-casting lasted for about an hour before I shivered my way back into jeans) and I weakened and bought summery fruits and vegetables :
melon, strawberries and courgettes.
Inevitably, I was disappointed. The ratatouille I made from the courgettes was OK- but made mainly from tins and jars so it had more of the feel of a storecupboard standby than a sunshine supplement. And the melon and strawberries looked and smelled good - but were flavourless to eat.
|Good looking- shame about the taste!|
|Ratatouille with meatballs and chorizo|
I was reminded of course that we buy in season for a reason. Two reasons really- price and taste.
So, lesson learned, what is in season in chilly British April? Well, lots of nice things. My rocket has started to grow again vigorously and is ready for picking. Rhubarb is now making its fragrant way into the shops and farm stalls. And lots of shellfish and white fleshed fish are in the fishmongers.
|Rocket springs up eternal|
This week's menu then is a rocket and halloumi salad, followed by pan-fried fish wrapped in Parma ham with a lemon butter sauce and colcannon, and rhubarb and ginger muffins with rhubarb compote to finish. Yum!
If you've never cooked with halloumi- give it a try. This cypriot cheese is wonderful fried in a little oil and added to a salad as here: with a good balsamic vinaigrette and lots of fresh rocket leaves to complement it. Halloumi is salty and crispy - and the rocket is peppery- a perfect match.
|Halloumi and rocket salad|
Coley, monkfish, plaice, pollock and John Dory are all in season too- so get yourselves some white fish fillets, wrap them in a slice of Parma ham and fry them in a little sunflower oil until the Parma ham is crispy all round and the fish is translucent and cooked through.
I served mine with colcannon made from mashed potato, combined with a head of chopped spring greens which had been steamed with a chopped spring onion and stirred together to make a savoury mash-cake.
I also made a lemon butter sauce- bring a very generous glass of dry white wine to the boil for 6 minutes to boil off the alcohol and reduce it a little. Whisk in some walnut-sized pieces of unsalted butter one by one until the sauce begins to emulsify. When thickened and unctuous, add the grated zest and juice of a lemon and some chopped parsley and pour in a puddle around your mash and fish:
|Parma wrapped fish with colcannon and lemon butter sauce|
For the pudding, make a basic sponge mix with 125g self raising flour, 125 g of butter or marge and 125g of caster sugar and 2 eggs (usual mixing-in method- butter and sugar creamed followed by beaten eggs and then flour). Chop 3 stems of rhubarb into 2cm chunks and place in a pan with a scant tablespoon of water and 100g of sugar or use 1 tablespoon of golden syrup and no water. (I prefer this as the rhubarb releases lots of juice).
Bring to a simmer and after 5-10 minutes the rhubarb will be completely tender.
Mix 2 teaspoons of ground ginger into the cake mix and then add 2-3 tablespoons of the rhubarb compote. (The rest will be served with the muffins, and the leftovers made into a crumble and/or pie).
Pour the mixture into prepared muffin cases- this will make 10-12. Sprinkle the tops with some sugar mixed with a teaspoon of ground ginger and bake at 190 degrees for 10 minutes or until risen and golden.
Serve with a compote of rhubarb on the side and some creme fraiche.
|Rhubarb and ginger muffins with compote|
The leftover rhubarb goes well in a crumble or pie - I add a tablespoon of polenta to my crumble mix to make it extra crunchy and to absorb any of the excess liquid from the rhubarb as it cooks in the oven.
|Rhubarb with polenta crumble topping|
So, as miserable March has given way to inauspicious April- I'm hoping that by the time May is out we can cast our clouts with abandon and look forward to asparagus, salads, new potatoes...and a warm garden to sit and eat them in!