Spring has Sprung!
I say it every year, but Spring is a particularly exciting time of year in the food calendar.
Providing light relief from a long season of hardy winter roots, spring vegetables offer a hint of freshness and are an assuring sign that warmer weather is hopefully just around the corner.
From sprightly spring greens to refreshing pink rhubarb, early year fruit and vegetables’ colour offer enough vibrancy to give even summer produce a run for their money!
Broccoli has become a fairly standard British vegetable that we seem to be able to get our hands on throughout the year, however, spring offers my favourite variety for both its rich colour and sweet, earthy flavour.
As a fairly newly cultivated variety of broccoli, purple sprouting possesses tall, tender, leafy stems and purple-green florets. High in vitamin C and fibre and with a pungent bittersweet flavour, this scraggy looking Calabrese is extremely versatile; happy to be boiled, steamed, roasted or simply eaten raw.
Officially only available in the UK between February and April, purple sprouting is one of many spring vegetables that have a particularly short seasonal period, making it all the more exciting when it arrives.
With a particular fondness for salty ingredients, purple sprouting pairs perfectly with bacon, blue cheese, parmesan and anchovies. A richer, sweeter flavour is often achieved through roasting and is additionally enhanced with the vivid flavours of chilli and garlic. Match it with acidic ingredients such as citrus fruits and sharp and lemony goats cheese is however, a particular favourite of mine.
I truly believe ingredients are best paired with those in season at the same time. Full of complementary flavour profiles, I love paring purple sprouting with potent wild garlic picked straight from the woods. Unlike some other spring veggies that would struggle with wild garlic’s dominancy, purple sprouting’s earthy flavour is too, bold and brash and therefore stands up to this gutsy foraged ingredient. Paired with a lemony, slightly acidic creamy Somerset goats cheese, the three dominant ingredients seem to find a loving equality, blending perfectly with one another to arrive at beautifully balanced spring
- Large bunch wild garlic
- Small bunch parsley
- 50g skinned almonds, toasted
- 50g mature cheddar
- 100ml rapeseed oil
- Salt & pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 roll pre-made puff pastry
- 1 large egg
- 200g soft goats cheese
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- 200-250g purple sprouting
- 40g flaked almonds
- First, make the pesto. Wash the wild garlic and add to a food processor along with the parsley (reserving a little), toasted almonds, cheddar, oil, salt and pepper and the juice of half a lemon. Blitz together until your desired consistency is achieved. Set aside until ready to use.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Cut into 4 equal rectangles then transfer to a lined baking tray. Score a 1cm boarder within the pastry rectangles with a blunt knife ensuring not to go all the way through. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and brush the pastry with an egg wash before placing in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
- In a large bowl combine the remaining egg and crumbled goats cheese. Stir in the creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and the remaining parsley. Whisk together lightly to form a thick, smooth consistency.
- Blanch the purple sprouting in a pan of salted boiling water for 3 - 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain immediate and plunge into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again and pat dry with a tea towel.
- When the pastry cases are golden and cooked through, remove from the oven and flatten the pastry inside the scored lines to form your pastry case - allow to cool. Add a generous spoon of pesto to the cases and spread evenly over the base. Divide the goats cheese mixture evenly between each case and smooth with the back of a spoon to fill the cases.
- Lie your blanched broccoli into the pastry cases, submerging them slightly in the goats cheese mixture. Sprinkle each tart with some flaked almonds and return to the oven for a further 10 -12 minutes or until the goat cheese mixture has set and the almonds are golden.
- Best eaten warm straight out of the oven.