Spring is a very interesting time of year in the kitchen, bringing together a hybrid of seasonal ingredients. At a time when the we are seeing the withering away of hardy winter veggies, and the introduction of more delicate and fresh produce springing to life in the warmth of the sun, there is no other change in season that brings so much contrast to the plate.
I strongly believe that using seasonal ingredients makes cooking a piece of cake. Complimenting each other on both a flavour and textural level, pairing seasonal produce only enhances their greatness with extra effort.
Leaves sprouting throughout spring are typically sweet and mellow in flavour, adding much needed freshness to dishes. Their pairing with late-season root vegetables helps to improve their vibrancy, but are also surprisingly complementary of their sweetness. Vegetables soon to go out of season, such as celeriac and leeks, are happily placed alongside spring greens, leaves and herbs to arrive at a dish that celebrates this transitional period.
I was particularly eager for spring to arrive and get my hands on some watercress and rocket; excited by their versatility to match with both sweet and salty flavours. Combined, watercress and rocket is spring’s bittersweet power-couple, handling other dominant flavours with confidence and gumption.
Their iron-rich flavour craves a salty contrast, therefore working perfectly with ingredients such as parmesan and anchovies – this makes both watercress and rocket a brilliant addition to pesto, offering a little bite and intensity of flavour.
Watercress, however, does also have a softer side, that is enhanced with subtly sweet flavours. Both just in season in April, I stumbled across the brilliant combination of peppery watercress with the sweet and earthy tendencies of celeriac to arrive at my latest recipe; Celeriac gnocchi with watercress and rocket pesto.
With the addition of cubes of roasted celeriac, the dish has intense sweetness that is offset by all the ingredients earthiness. Combining a whole catalogue of textures and temperatures results in an exciting eat enjoyed best alfresco in the spring sun!
Be sure to try this recipe now, as we only have the pleasure on celeriac on our plates for another couple of weeks as it falls out of season around the end of April. Watercress and rocket however, are here to stay for a good few months, so think about using them for more than just a leafy garnish. Use in soups, pestos, sauces and stir fries to add a little verve to your cooking. Extensively grown in the UK and watercress particularly in the South West, these highly nutritious leaves are something not be missed!
- 1 celeriac
- Salt and Pepper
- 100g(+) starchy potato (preferably Désirée)
- 80g rocket
- 120g watercress
- 50g pine nuts, toasted
- 10g parsley
- 10g basil
- 60g parmesan (or vegetarian equivalent)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 150ml rapeseed oil
- 200g plain flour
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 egg
- Knob of butter
- 40g sun dried tomatoes
- Place the potato, with skin still on in a pre-heated oven at 200°C/Gas 5 for approximately 1 hour. Peel and dice the celeriac and place 100g in a baking tray with a little oil and seasoning. Place 400g of the remaining celeriac in a greaseproof paper and enclose in a parcel to ensure the celeriac doesn’t colour. Put both celeriac in the same oven for 25 – 30 minutes. Whilst this celeriac and potato is cooking, make the pesto.
- Place the rocket, watercress, pine nuts, parsley and basil in a food processor and grate in the parmesan. Dice the garlic and add to the processor along with the oil and seasoning. Blend until a smooth paste is achieved. Set aside until needed.
- Once cooked, remove the celeriac parcel and potato from the oven. When the roasted celeriac is golden, turn off the heat and leave in the oven. Whilst still hot, remove the skin from the potato, reserving 100g. Pass the celeriac and potato through a ricer or fine sieve, or alternatively, tip into a large bowl whilst still hot and blitz until smooth using a hand blender. Add the 150g flour, seasoning, nutmeg and egg before gently combining together. If the mixture is still too wet, add the remaining flour to achieve a soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface before dividing in 4 smaller balls. Roll each ball into to long sausage shape, no thicker than 3 cm and cut into small pillow shapes. Place on a floured tray until ready to cook.
- Bring a pan of salted water to a rapid bowl. Cook in two batches, removing the gnocchi with a slotted spoon once it has cooked and risen to the top – this will take approximately 4-5 minutes. Place the blanched gnocchi in cold water, before drain and drizzling with a little oil until ready to use.
- Before serving, put a knob of butter in a large frying pan. Add the gnocchi and allow to colour slightly on either side. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes and add to the pan cooking for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat before stirring through a couple of generous spoons of the pesto. Serve immediately and garnish with the roasted celeriac, fresh rocket and watercress and grated parmesan.