What a fantastic time of the year for any food lovers who like growing and picking their own crops. The garden starts to be alive, flowers are blooming, the first batches of Spring vegetables are appearing, bees are collecting nectar, birds are looking for worms and finally the gardener/chef is ready to cook his vegetables. I have always been told since I have started in a kitchen, you don’t need to do a lot of cooking during Spring time. The most important is prepping. Wash properly your fruits and vegetables before using them. Spending time in a garden amongst nature is a great experience and a source of well being. Being outdoors, breathing some fresh air and really understanding how vegetables and fruits grow is considered as the extra mile but a worthy step for any chef cooking fresh food. For the last few weeks, I have been thinking about how to use the vegetables picked in the garden or bought at the local farm. You will find below a selection of what I have been preparing, cooking and plating at home. Springtime reminds us there is no need for expensive equipment, fancy foams or luxury ingredients; the simplicity and freshness of the vegetables and fruits speak for themselves.
Let’s start with radishes. Five weeks after planting the seeds we see the first radishes appearing. They are growing very well in my father-in-law’s greenhouse, no doubt that he has green fingers! Peter your extra care has been worth it. Radishes are superstars and the seeds are cheap, easy and quick to grow. When I was a kid, sowing radishes was my first experience in the gardening world and I remember having great fun. As well as the familiar pink radish, don’t forget the leaves. You can make your own radish leaf mayonnaise by mixing an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard. Blend 150ml of vegetable oil with 20g of radish leaf. Finish your mayonnaise by adding the radish leaf oil to the egg yolk and mustard mixture. Season with a squeeze of a lemon juice, salt and pepper. Et voilá – a perfect fresh, mild, delicious dip!
Through Spring and Summer, I will add a few quick recipes to use most of your crops. I don’t like wasting food and actually with a bit of savoir-faire and imagination, the possibility to add an extra topping, dipping sauce or chopping herb from the green tops can be fun and tasty.
Then let’s keep going with carrots, principally with organic carrots. I like using organic carrots for a few reasons, they are sustainable, support the British farm industry, they taste good, they look attractive on a plate and importantly we can use all the parts. It’s always exciting to get a bunch of baby carrots, they are so easy and fun to prep and as a child we used to challenge each others when getting them ready for our Sunday roast. But a few weeks ago, I have tried a couple of new recipes by using the green top carrots as a chimichurri and as a pesto. Success! they were winners!
For the chimichurri, start separating the green top to the carrots. Peel the carrots and wash them. With the green tops, chop them, grate one garlic clove, add a pinch of chilli flakes (or a teaspoon of fresh chopped red chilli), Maldon salt, a pinch of oregano, a splash of red wine vinegar, and I used chilli oil. Mix everything together to obtain a kind of paste.
I have used the chimichurri to dress the roasted carrots. (Above left.) I have used the pesto (the recipe will be online tomorrow) to served with cooked carrots cut length-ways and scattered with wild garlic flowers. (Above right.)
More tomorrow about my sustainable Spring vegetable plate using broccoli, baby leeks, radishes and baby gem lettuce!