Spring On Your Table
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
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
3 courgettes, diced
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.
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
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
3 tbsp parsley chopped
Lemon wedges to serve
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.