Posted 1st May 2014 by Celia Lacy
Lighter evenings and warmer days are really getting us in the swing of late spring. Every bit of blue sky is the perfect chance to take your food outside, whether you’re BBQing, picnicking or just having lunch in the garden.
From tomatoes to radishes and asparagus to Jersey Royals, this month’s selection of seasonal produce provides all the inspiration you’ll need to get cooking colourful and fresh meals that bring the spirit of summer to your plates.
Nothing quite says late spring like the tender spears of asparagus. This elegant seasonal vegetable has a delicate, sweet and fresh taste. And another plus: it's really quick to cook.
Typically, asparagus is enjoyed with butter, pepper and a drizzle of lemon juice. For something a little different, try grilling them with red onions and salsa verde, or steam them before serving with crème fraiche. Infuse them in an omelette with herbs and Gruyère cheese. You could even create the perfect picnic packed lunch with a fresh asparagus quiche.
Don't be put off by their muddy skins, once scrubbed up you'll find a sweet, nutty ingredient that can add a charismatic flavour to meals. For a delicious dinner, bring them to the boil with a sprig of mint and serve with lots of lovely veg, drizzled in warm vinaigrette. Use garlic and lemon to royally roast them into a flavoursome side dish or salad, or get super seasonal by pan frying them with asparagus and some pancetta.
The British radish is in season from April until October and there’s a fiery side to this unsuspecting vegetable, with its mustard ancestry revealed through a peppery spice that tickles your tongue. This works especially well in salads, paired with mackerel and dressed in ginger and soy for a flourish of flavour. Keep it simple as a snack with garlic houmous dip or delicately rest them in thin slices on toasted sourdough, with avocado watercress and red onion for a healthy canapé-like lunch alternative. To serve your radishes extra crisp, soak them in iced water for a few hours before using.
The Sugardrop tomato is not only sweet sounding, but also sweet and juicy in taste. Their small, teardrop like shape makes them perfect to toss in a salad, giving your lettuce leaves instant character. Try drizzling them with olive oil before roasting, or sitting them snugly into pastry for a filling tarte tatin. The sharp sweetness of these tomatoes tastes best when paired with strong cheeses, and it makes a fab chutney that can be served with goat’s cheese on toasted baguettes.
Romaine lettuce suprasses all expectations of the average salad leaf. A crisp, sweet flavour makes it refreshing, while at the same time it’s also sturdy enough to be used as an alternative to tacos and tortillas. Try filling them with fresh cucumber, peppers and red onion for a lighter version of a vegetable wrap. In garden party weather these are lovely when grilled with a lemon, garlic and pine nut dressing, or tossed together with chicken, bacon and avocado.
Apricots add a summery colour and subtle sweetness to dishes. They create a contrast in flavour to savoury dishes such as duck, or compliment desserts when poached and placed on top of panna cotta. Try combining them with lavender to make a beautiful breakfast compote or use them to flavour mousse for a light and fruity treat.
Easter may be over but seasonal lamb is at its most tender when eaten at this time of year. The delicate texture and matured flavours mean that it requires little fuss, with a gentle seasoning of herbs, mint sauce, and roast vegetables on the side it makes a perfect meal. If the sun comes out, grill lamb kebab skewers and lightly flavour them with teriyaki or mint to create a rich, vibrant taste. For a kick to your meals, add spices and one green chilli to lamb mince before shaping into burgers.