Market Report March 2018
This winter the ‘beast from the east’ has brought freezing temperatures and snow too much of the country and spring has seemed a long way off. On my recent visit to the Bristol Fruit Market I saw signs of the spring coming with lots of bunches of carrots, spring flowers and leeks. At this time of year it is a good time to liven up your cooking with spices. I am passionate about spice and have a draw full of whole spices and homemade made blends which mean I’m never short of a selection of flavours to add to dishes. Spices don’t last forever though, and it I good to use them up by using them often! If you want to use seasonal produce throughout the year, using spices is a key part of making dishes with a variety of flavours. For the Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Tagine recipe you can use any root vegetables or squash that are available, it is a great way of using vegetables that you have lurking in the fridge. This season I’ve included a recipe for a Moroccan spice blend ‘Ras el Hanout’ which can be used for tagines, dips, marinades and more. The spice blend will keep for six months or so as long as it is kept in an air tight container away from the light.
I am always excited by the start of the British asparagus season which starts on 23rd April (St George’s Day). It is generally best to keep it simple with asparagus by waiter steaming, griddling or roasting the stems until they are just tender. They make a brilliant dish to serve as a starter if you make a delicious dip to go alongside. I like to make dips which use store cupboard ingredients such as capers and gherkins, usually with some chopped herbs such as Dill. Baby leeks, spring onions, or calcots if you can get them, are also great for this and in Spain are so celebrated that the Calcot has its own festival. In Spain the calcots are grilled over a barbecue, in the UK a griddle pan is a more practical alternative at this time of year! You could also griddle other vegetables as they come in to season such as courgettes, peppers and green beans.
There is nothing quite like a warming bowl of soup and I love using celeriac to make a smooth white soup, with added white beans to make a really filling dish. I like to top a really simple soup with a crunchy topping of croutons, adding a handful of kale to add some colour and crunch. These Kale Croutons never last long in my house as they get nibbled as a snack or added to roasted vegetables or salads. You can use any type of kale for this, just make sure that you don’t roast any of the stalks as it is tough and will take too long to cook.
The mango has become a commonly used fruit in this country, even though they can’t be grown here. Mangoes are at their best during the months of April to June and during this time you can often find Indian varieties such as the Alphonso and Honey Mango. I make Roasted Mango with Chilli to accompany many different desserts such as the Saffron Rice Pudding or just pancakes or ice cream. You can easily make a savoury version by reducing the sugar by half and adding some salt, more lime and a little garlic and serve this alongside any Indian, Thai or Mexican dish. Spiced Rice Pudding is really easy to make and takes a fraction of the time of one made with pudding rice. This dish is already gluten free and you can make it dairy free if you just use coconut milk and dairy free milk such as Almond. The Rice Pudding is great served hot or cold and it sets as it cools, don’t worry if you don’t have all of the spices as you can keep it really simple and only add one or two; leaving out the saffron will mean that your Rice Pudding will be white, but it will still taste great.