Spring is peering at us over the horizon and I am looking forward to a move from those hearty iron rich winter vegetables to something lighter and fresher and more ‘vitamin C!’ To help move the winter into the background I have just returned from my favourite city destination of Marrakech where the sights, sounds and smells in the souks and street markets are a feast I themselves. The Jewish quarter is always a special treat where the spices are displayed in colourful conical shapes at the front of the shops to entice you in. We were able to find our favourite shopkeeper (out of the 16,000 that are there!) and to barter for plenty of ras-el-hanout. A wonderful selection of 10 whole spices including star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon bark, mace and allspice berries. This along with the Argan oil I purchased will go a long way to making authentic lamb and chicken tagines.
As we are now in the ‘hungry gap’ the vegetable garden is looking quite bare (the last of the kalettes making dinner for the pigeons) in my search for something green and season to eat I eagerly awairt the first of the fresh green nettles. Armed with rubber gloves and a pair of scissors, these represent for me the first of the seasons’ bounty! I turn them into a vibrantly green nettle soup a cross between spinach and watercress, with a taste all of its own! Served with crusty bread and a swirl of cream and a drizzle of parsley oilit’s delicious and free!
These recent crisp clear days have also produced some fantastic local cod, to follow the local scallop season. Ice white, with really firm flesh and delicate taste, I would far prefer to have this on the occasions it is freshly landed than eat inferior cod more often. When available, I
also like to use Pollack in it’s place which can be just as good. I like to prepare a parsley-crusted fillet of cod and serve it with homemade tartare sauce and olive oil mash.
With Easter on the horizon I look forward to a good baking session. There will be a delicious Simnel cake, rich with dried fruits and my home-made candied orange peel. I like to make my own marzipan to cove the cake and then toast it in the oven for 15 mins for a lovely toasted colour. I use 11 small balls of rolled marzipan on the top to represent the 12 apostles (minus Judas course!)
Another family favourite are hot cross buns, simple to make and far superior to shop bought ones. If you have children at home during the holidays buns make a fun activity to keep little hands occupied!
At this time of year people are starting to plan their celebrations and special events. Confirmation and baptism parties as well as birthday’s and wedding anniversaries are already filling my diary! With people having increasingly busy lives, clients also appreciate the personal touch of someone organising their event leaving them free to enjoy their guests. So if you or someone you know is hosting an event that you think I can help with please do get in touch.
Enjoy the season!