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Peter Sidwell – What’s on your springtime menu?

Our food columnist, Peter Sidwell, talks us through some of his must-buys as we reach springtime.

I thought I would highlight half a dozen coming-into-season ingredients for this issue so add them to your shopping list and make the most of them whilst they are in plentiful flavourful supply.

Spring onions
Basically a standard onion but picked before the bulb has formed. Even though they are available in the supermarkets all year round, provided you select British grown spring onions early in the season, the flavour is delicate and enjoyed in a range of dishes. Garnish or cook with spring onions to add texture and a little creativity to your cooking.

Purple spouting broccoli
Always select the most purple coloured stems and they will reward your careful attention with a delicate and tender variety of broccoli. It can be enjoyed raw with dips such as houmous or gently blanched and served with hollandaise. Trim off wilted leaves and woody stems and cook simply to get the best out of this lovely vegetable whilst it is in season.

Packed with vitamins A, C and K as well as calcium, potassium and iron, asparagus was traditionally grown in East Anglia and Worcestershire. When selecting your asparagus I would always go to your local farm shop rather than the supermarket as your produce is more likely to be fresher and has travelled a shorter distance to market.

It pays to be picky about your asparagus spears – they should be crisp, fine and delicate, especially if you are steaming them for a couple of minutes and serving with melted butter. Thicker stemmed asparagus are ideal for risottos, soups and quiches, but make sure you remove the woody end of the spear before cooking.

New potatoes
The king of new potatoes, make the Jersey Royal the star of the show. Simply boil them then dress with a wild garlic pesto, the last two ingredients you need to get your hands on.

Make friends with your local wet fish monger if you haven’t done so and ask them to source some brown crab and sea bass for you. If you like brown crab meat it’s the female you need to ask for, otherwise the white meat in the large pincers in the brown crabs that are caught in the waters of the British coast is second to none. My favourite way to serve crab meat is on crusty sourdough toast with crushed garlic avocado and fresh red chillis. Sea bass is such a versatile fish, able to withstand baking, grilling or cooking in the frying pan. Ask for line-caught or wild sea bass. The best way to enjoy its flavour is with lemon caper butter.

Don’t know about you but I’m feeling a bit peckish now!

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