Celebrating Spring & all her beautiful gifts
For months, we’ve been sitting inside, heating cranked up, willing something outside to bloom and show that first spark of life. Then we are lulled into a false sense of security when a warm spell snaps in March, we don’t even have April Fool’s Day to blame. Mother Nature though, true to form in Scotland, shuts down any optimism with a cold, wet spell before the temperature does finally rise a few degrees north of 10c and we can emerge from our indoor ‘cocoons’.
Winter can feel endless and lifeless but the whole time, tree roots are meticulously taking the temperature above ground and making calculations.
When the time is exactly right, they gather their first ‘glob’ of sap to send to the tips of the branches and signal the first buds, that delightful, sure sign of spring we savour. At last.
For almost everyone on Earth, Spring seems to be met with jubilation. We’re ready for it right? But none are as excited as us Chefs! Colour, sweet shellfish & meats & a whole rainbow of youthful spring veggies are coming.
Here are a few of Andy’s Spring Staples…
The first sign of spring in the chef world is the arrival of wild garlic. Usually found by the banks of a stream or in a wet woodland, you can smell it before you see it.
This wonder veg first comes out in the south of England in February and slowly works it way up the country, not available in the north of Scotland until April or May.
Autumn’s root veggies are distant memories and we can start looking at new fresh green and purple leafy goodness. After wild garlic, my favourite is, broccoli, kale, morels, new pine growth, birch and birch sap and lets not forget wild leeks. With Spring veg, it is all about the colour & variety for me!
Conventionally, Lamb is reared to be ready when months old. Knowing that, have you ever seen a new lamb a leaping in the fields in the UK around March, April and wondered how are they fattened up in time for Easter? The answer is, that it is not actually possible. Lamb eaten at Easter time is imported or produced using methods which disturb their natural cycle. Either way, it doesn’t sit well with me.
This Easter, buy a hogget, a 1-2 year old lam or mutton, 2+years. It is incredibly delicious and tender and goes very well with homemade mint sauce.
I love them. For some reason there are more available in the Spring. Perhaps it’s because the farmers want them off their crops and there is not much else to shoot for the hunters. Rub a little oil over the skin and season well, sear off the outside to get a little colour and stick in the oven at 60C for 10-15mins. Enjoy medium-rare for something that will knock your socks off.
Wild Salmon & Shellfish
After winter’s hearty meals, often heavy in meat & carb vegetables, the seasonal flush of jewelled shellfish such as cockles, clams, crab, oysters, mussels & winkles makes for very very happy times.
There is just something about shellfish & the fresh & vibrant flavours of Spring. Pair them with an unplanned Spring evening, a crisp white wine & some good friends & you’ve got to pinch yourself!
Happy Spring, have fun & be bold with your culinary adventures!