3 Tasty Springtime Recipes To Try At Home

Back in 2000, British architectural designer John Pawson collaborated on a cookbook. Shot in his Notting Hill home, it combined Pawson’s pared-back aesthetic with simple-to-make recipes by food writer Annie Bell. Now out of print, second-hand copies of ‘Living and Eating’ sell online for as much as £1,000. His new book ‘Home Farm Cooking’ includes recipes from his wife Catherine’s repertoire, all photographed at the family home in Oxfordshire. Here, the pair share three spring-inspired recipes to recreate at home.
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The arrival of spring can feel instantaneous. Overnight there are buds everywhere, bulbs burst into bloom and the daylight gains that have been steadily accumulating since late December feel suddenly transformational. The ‘firsts’ of the year also start to accelerate — the first breakfast outside, the first outing for the punt and, for the hardy, the first swim in the outdoors. The sunlight works its way through the various rooms and passages of Home Farm across the course of the day, too, and the open windows let in the warmer air. In conjunction with the powerful influx of the leafy scents of spring, it is difficult not to feel a surge of optimism. 

Now is the time for foraging. We make pilgrimages to Foxholes, just outside the nearby village of Bruern, where the ancient woodland is covered with bluebells. There’s wild garlic growing in the damp shade, which we pound with nuts and olive oil and put into jars, to make a deliciously pungent garlic pesto for serving with pasta, swirling into soups or risottos and smearing onto roasted vegetables. The leaves are wonderful, too, simply added to salads or wilted as a vegetable. There are also young nettle leaves that make a perfect risotto or a very nourishing soup. Although the kitchen garden is still a work in progress — as are the beehives – I nevertheless plant broad beans, our favourite vegetable, and a multitude of herbs in a flower bed outside the kitchen – chives, vervain, thyme, rosemary, dill, chervil and oregano. 

Now is the time new ingredients arrive at the grocers and farm shops – slender pink stalks of forced rhubarb from Yorkshire, mustard greens, leeks, spinach, sea kale, sprouting broccoli and morels. The appearance of Jersey royal potatoes towards the end of March is perhaps the first indication that spring is really on its way. As the weeks pass, we look forward to wild and garden rocket, pea shoots, Swiss chard, spring greens, sweet herbs, sorrel, radishes, baby carrots and fennel. Artichokes arrive from France, as do soft, lemony goat’s cheeses and organic lemons from Sicily and the Amalfi coast, wonderful for a lemon pasta, for flavouring madeleines and for combining with pistachios, polenta and pomegranates in a favourite cake recipe. April means the start of the short-lived English asparagus season, as well as peas and broad beans. Joys for May include peas and the arrival of Alphonso mangoes from India. There is a rhythmic sense of anticipation, as well as a comforting familiarity, if you cook with the seasons. It provides a sense of life’s continuity. 

Inspired? Here are three simple seasonal recipes to try…

Piedmontese Peppers
Piedmontese Peppers

The source of this dish is the inimitable Elizabeth David and its confident simplicity and punchy flavours perfectly epitomise her approach to food. Often found growing alongside bluebells, wild garlic is one of the many delights of spring. Forage this seasonal treasure before the plants flower. This recipe makes more pesto than you need for these peppers, but it can be kept in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a month. It is a delicious accompaniment to pasta, spring lamb, grilled wild salmon and risotto or swirled through a soup. This recipe uses hazelnuts, but pine nuts or pumpkin seeds work just as well.

Serves

4

Total Time

50 Minutes

Ingredients

4 red peppers, halved and seeded, white ribs removed
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8 anchovies, drained and chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 tsp of wild garlic pesto
200g of mozzarella, torn into pieces
8 basil leaves
Sea salt and black pepper
Bread, to serve
For the wild garlic pesto:
130g of wild garlic leaves, washed thoroughly
50g of hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
50g of parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 clove garlic
130ml of extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Step 1

Start by preparing the wild garlic pesto. Put the wild garlic leaves into a food processor with the hazelnuts, parmesan and garlic and pulse until the mixture forms a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse again until you have a coarse pesto. Taste and season with lemon juice and salt and pepper as necessary. Spoon it into a sterilised jar and set aside.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Put the halved red peppers into an ovenproof dish, skin side down and pack tightly together. Divide the finely chopped garlic cloves among the pepper halves, then divide the chopped anchovies among them, too. Add 2 cherry tomato halves to each pepper half. Season generously with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the peppers are soft.

Step 3

Remove from the oven and, while the peppers are still hot, add a generous piece of mozzarella to each pepper with a teaspoon of pesto and a basil leaf on the top and serve straight away with bread.
Stir-Fried Sea Bass With Soy, Ginger & Vegetables
Stir-Fried Sea Bass With Soy, Ginger & Vegetables

The mild, sweet flavour and meaty texture of sea bass makes it a good choice for people who struggle with the stronger smell and taste of some other types of fish. In recent years, sea bass has been heavily fished, but stocks are slowly recovering, with line-caught being the more sustainable option. Use the gleaming white fillets in this dish, a strategy inspired by Alastair Little’s recipe in his cookbook ‘Keep It Simple’, based on a dish he tasted at Poons restaurant in London.

Serves

4

Total Time

20 Minutes

Ingredients

4 medium sea bass fillets
6 spring onions, trimmed
200g of spinach, washed
2 small carrots, shaved into strips
2 tbsp of light soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
3 -cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp of plain flour
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
Sea salt
1 red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced

Method

Step 1

Slice the fish, at an angle, into 2cm-thick pieces and leave in the refrigerator while you prepare the vegetables.

Step 2

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat, then chargrill the spring onions for 4-5 minutes and set aside. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 45 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Blanch the carrot strips in the same boiling water for 1 minute to soften them slightly, then drain and set aside.

Step 3

To make a sauce, combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, grated ginger and sliced garlic in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 4

Put the flour on a plate and coat the fish pieces in it. Heat the oil in a heavy wok or frying pan over a medium heat, add the fish and fry for about 1 minute. Do this in two pans if it does not fit into one. Turn the fish pieces over and add the blanched vegetables and sauce. Cook for another minute. Add the sliced chilli and serve with rice.
Apricot Frangipane Tart
Apricot Frangipane Tart

In this tart, fresh apricots are baked in a bed of lemon-scented frangipane, a sweet almond filling that perfectly complements the sharpness of the stone fruit.

Serves

6-8

Total Time

2 Hours

Ingredients

For the pastry:
200g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g of cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons icing sugar
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
Ice-cold water to bring the pastry together if needed
For the filling:
200g of softened unsalted butter
180g of caster sugar
200g of almonds
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 egg
8 ripe apricots, halved and stoned

Method

Step 1

To make the pastry dough, put the flour and butter into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, salt and egg yolks and pulse until the mixture just leaves the sides of the bowl. Alternatively, to make the pastry dough by hand, put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub the butter gently and swiftly into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add the sugar, salt and egg yolks and rub it through your fingers lightly until it comes together to form a dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm, flatten it slightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Step 2

Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator and let it soften a little, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface until large enough to line a 23-cm shallow loose-bottomed tart pan. Press the pastry dough evenly into the sides and base of the pan and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Put a sheet of greaseproof paper over the chilled tart case, fill with baking beans and bake ‘blind’ for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and the greaseproof paper and return the pastry case to the oven briefly to allow the pastry to turn golden. Remove from the oven and allow the pastry to cool completely.

Step 4

To make the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment until pale and fluffy in texture. Add the ground almonds and pulse to combine. Gradually add the grated lemon zest and juice, pulsing again. Remove from the processor or mixer and use a wooden spoon to stir in the egg.

Step 5

Spread a layer of about half the frangipane over the pastry case, then place the apricots, cut side up, on top. Fill the spaces between the apricots with more of the frangipane. Bake the tart in the oven for 1 hour, or until the frangipane is set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tart pan. Serve at room temperature.

Home Farm Cooking by Catherine and John Pawson is published by Phaidon, £35.
  
Photo: Gilbert McCarragher
 
Available at Waterstones.com

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