Has a winter season ever seemed longer but finally we are emerging from the depths of the grey, wet and rather miserable days and there is a cheering whiff of spring in the air.The cherry trees are bursting forth with their delicate frothy blossoms, the daffodils are trumpeting skyward and the hedgerows are awash with primroses and violets. In the vegetable garden, radishes, spring herbs and the eagerly awaited seakale are ready to eat. The first spring lamb is coming to market .It is an exciting time to cook and in this meal I will share some of that buzzing feeling that I get at this time every year.
Young blackcurrant leaves give little away visually as they are plain in appearance but when rubbed between thumb and finger, be ready for one of the most glorious scents of the year. This scent is converted to flavour in a simple though heavenly sorbet. There are a few short weeks to catch this gift of nature and then watchwide-eyed diners marvel at how something that is so white in appearance ( thesorbet) can taste so richly colourful in flavour.
Cheerful radishes have enough heat and peppery attitude to be paired with butter flavoured with smoked eel. This cheerful little dish looks pretty and is a most stimulating small taste.
Speaking of gifts of nature, seakale is just that. This wonderful vegetable should be better known than it is. The plants are shielded with light denying covers even before they break the surface of the soil and this growing technique results in delicate,slender, pale primrose yellow coloured stalks with a sweet taste to match its refined appearance. I serve this vegetable in many ways but never tire of giving it a classic treatment with Hollandaise sauce, sprigs of chervil and buttered toast.
The sweet taste of spring lamb is another eagerly awaited treat. This gets the lightest of touches, just salt and pepper and the minimum intervention from the butchers knife. The petite size of the early lamb means that the small amount of fat and skin need no trimming, the bones stay where they are and just correct cooking follows to ensure a crispness to the thin veil of exterior skin and a melting tenderness to the flesh itself. A simple gravy accompanies and in this case two sauces – a classic mint sauce and a pounded almond and marjoram sauce with the first of the leaves from those two marvellous herbs.
A rich and delicious chocolate cake is a fitting end to this meal and this cake which keeps really well looks decidedly pretty and spring like with a sprinkling of crystallized violets and primroses.
Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet
Radishes with Smoked Eel Butter
Seakale on Toast with Hollandaise Sauce and Chervil
Roast Loin of Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce and Almond and Marjoram Sauce
Roast Hazelnut and Chocolate Cake with Crystalized wild Violets and Primroses