Eating food that’s in season makes a lot of sense – not only is it fresher and tastier, it saves transporting produce half way around the world. For all those reasons we take great care to make best use of the ingredients that are readily available in the locality at any given time of the year.
Radishes and spring onions, as the name suggests, burst onto the scene around now and I love their strong flavours and crunchy texture. But I especially look forward to the first crop of Rhubarb that emerges from the greenhouses in the springtime. Grown indoors it is sweeter, redder and more tender than the outdoor variety that ripens in the summer.
Rhubarb is terrifically versatile, and the distinctive flavour goes so well with so many other ingredients. I especially like to poach it with ginger, in light stock to make a syrup. This makes a spectacular foil for a foie gras terrine – the sweetness of the rhubarb goes particularly well with the rich fatty taste of the goose liver.
Rhubarb and custard tart is a firm favourite with our guests at this time of year for Sunday Lunch, while rhubarb soufflé with custard ice cream makes a very popular combination.
Another feature of springtime is the arrival of wild garlic. With four acres of landscaped gardens we find it sprouting all around the hotel right now, especially in the hedgerows. We’re very fond of foraging for our food at Summer Lodge and we make extensive use of the garlic that pops up on our doorstep.
Wild garlic is easy to find – the smell gives you a strong clue! We just pick the leaves, then blanch and blend into sauces. Wild garlic soup is wonderful as well, so we generally make room for that on the menu at this time of year. I also like to use it raw, blending it with olive oil to make pesto. This then becomes one of the main ingredients in a delicious wild garlic risotto, which I generally serve as an accompaniment to fish dishes.
Purple sprouting broccoli is also a firm favourite of mine in the springtime. The appearance is spectacular, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals and tastes wonderful if you quickly blanch it then sauté in hot butter with garlic and almonds.
Last, and certainly not least, is the arrival of the fresh spring lamb. You can get lamb the whole year round, but spring lamb is best because it’s milk fed and has not been running around building up muscle…so it is more tender. The older it gets, the tougher it becomes, so now is the time to enjoy lamb at its absolute best.