Spring On Your Table

Food-lover Polly Sweet indulges in the bounties of the season with a fabulously fresh feast
Monday , 21 May 2012
Polly Sweet
Polly Sweet
Spring Vegetable Minestrone
Spring Vegetable Minestrone
Crab and chilli linguine
Crab and chilli linguine
Lemon Mousse
Lemon Mousse
Garlic and Herb Crusted Goat's Cheese Croutons
Garlic and Herb Crusted Goat's Cheese Croutons

Like Gourmet reader Polly Sweet, we can’t get enough of fresh produce at its seasonal best. Spring is the perfect time to experiment with new ingredients, and when Polly told us that she was gathering a few friends to celebrate the beginning of the warmer months, we hotfooted it down to the party.
With the bounty of crunchy asparagus, waxy new potatoes and tangy lemons, mid-week dinner parties don’t need to signal a torturous few hours spent slaving over the stove while guests entertain themselves next door. As Polly puts it, “With a pre-planned menu consisting of a few carefully selected dishes, you can get most of the preparation work out of the way the day before.” The lemon mousse, for example, can be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hours, and the homemade chicken stock will happily sit in the freezer for six months. Leaving you free to pour out Shirley Temples and enjoy the last of the winter sun!

Spring Vegetable Minestrone
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
250g new potatoes, quartered
2 L chicken or vegetable stock
150g green beans, topped, tailed and halved
150g baby asparagus, halved
150g broad beans
150g peas
3 courgettes, diced
Salt

METHOD
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook the onion, celery, garlic and potatoes for approximately 10 minutes.
Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding in the green beans, broad beans, peas, asparagus and courgettes. Bring back to a boil.
Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are cooked through. Season to taste and serve into bowls.

Top Tip
To give the soup even more colour and flavour, drop into each bowl a dollop of homemade pesto or a swirl of crème fraiche. To make homemade pesto, blitz a handful of fresh basil, two tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of toasted pinenuts and a handful of parmesan until you have a slightly nutty paste. Leftovers can be tossed through whole wheat spaghetti for a light and easy supper.

Crab and Chilli Linguine
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 large red chilli
200g white crab meat
100g brown crab meat
125ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
500g linguine
3 tbsp parsley chopped
Lemon wedges to serve

METHOD
Put a large pan of water to boil for the pasta.
In a pestle and mortar, mash the garlic cloves, salt and chilli until you have a bright pink paste.
Add the crab meat, lemon zest and juice and the olive oil and mix well.
Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, before pouring it onto a large serving platter. Add the crab mixture and mix continuously, adding the parsley before tasting for seasoning and serving with lemon wedges.

Top Tip
April is crab season but if you can’t find fresh crab meat, whole frozen crabs are just as delicious and can be found in most supermarkets. Leave the crabs to defrost for 24 hours before pulling apart the shells and removing all the flesh. Three whole crabs should give you enough meat for the recipe as instructed.

Lemon Mousse
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
2 tsp unflavoured gelatine
Juice of 3 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs, separated
170g caster sugar
250ml double cream
1 pinch of salt
Fresh mint to serve

METHOD
Dissolve the gelatine with the lemon juice over a bowl of simmering water.
Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar, then fold in the gelatine mixture and the lemon zest.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until they form soft peaks; now add the rest of the caster sugar until stiffer peaks form.
Whip the cream in a separate bowl until stiff.
Fold 1 tablespoon of the egg whites into the lemon gelatine mixture, then fold in the cream and the rest of the egg whites.Pour into individual ramekins and put in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Serve with fresh mint.

Top Tip
Instead of ramekins, try serving the individual mousses in teacups. Better still, trim the bottoms of 6 lemons and hollow them out before pouring the mixture into the empty husks. A very authentic way of presenting this feather-light pudding and a guaranteed way of impressing your guests.

Garlic and Herb Crusted Goat's Cheese Croutons
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
1 French baguette
2 tbsp olive oil
300g goat’s cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tsp salt and pepper

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Slice the baguette into rounds, approximately 1cm thick and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place onto a baking tray in the middle of the pre-heated oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Place all the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well
Allow the baguette slices to cool slightly before spooning a large dollop of the goat’s cheese mixture onto each one.

 

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