Season's best

Spring is finally here, bringing plenty of fresh seasonal ingredients with it. Delicate mushrooms and sweet leeks can both be used in a wide variety of dishes or served as the star of the show – try mushrooms on toast for an easy brunch. Peppery white cabbage can be sliced raw into slaws, whilst rosemary adds a fragrant aroma to stews and casseroles. Mango and coconut add a summery, tropical twist to both sweet and savoury dishes, perfect for sunnier days ahead.

Passion fruit

The dusky exterior of this tropical fruit hides crunchy seeds surrounded by an aromatic, juicy and slightly tart pulp. Passion fruit’s hard, deep purple shell wrinkles as it ripens and becomes sweeter. Avoid any that are already very wrinkled or that feel light. Although the pulp is juicy, it takes more than 100 fruits to make 1ltr of juice. Try blitzing up the passion fruit pulp with other exotic fruits for a fresh and tasty smoothie. If decorating a cake, try adding a little strained passion fruit juice to buttercream, then use the seeds to decorate the top.

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Also in season...

Closed-cup mushrooms

Closed-cup mushrooms

Humble white closed-cup mushrooms have a delicate earthy flavour that intensifies the longer they’re cooked. The best mushrooms have smooth white caps without soft spots or brown patches, but imperfect ones are great for soup or chopped up in pasta sauce. Store, unwashed, in the fridge. Mushrooms grow quickly – once a small mushroom is formed it can double in size overnight. Contrary to popular belief, you can wash mushrooms to clean them. Rinse quickly, then pat dry with kitchen paper.

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This fragrant herb is great for perking up dishes as it retains its aroma even after slow-cooking. The leaves are where rosemary stores its scent and flavour; rubbing them before use releases the aromatic oils. Stir finely chopped leaves into softened butter with lemon zest, then freeze in ice cube trays for an instant pop of herby freshness to add to steaks, sauces and casseroles.

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Leeks are from the same family as onions and garlic (allium), but have a much sweeter, milder flavour. According to legend, seventh-century Welsh soldiers wore leeks in their hats to distinguish them from the enemy army. Ever since, the allium has been one of Wales' national symbols. Choose leeks with bright green tops. Trim the root and leaf tops before rinsing well to remove grit and soil. For a sophisticated twist on cheese on toast, soften half a sliced leek in butter. Stir in crumbled blue cheese, then spoon onto a slice of crusty bread and grill until golden.

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