Week Thirty Four

Finally, we are a few days away from being officially in spring (Saturday!)…so I’ve been thinking about food which will soon be coming into season. To be honest, these days, because we can get most of our produce year round, we can cook things out of season, however, it’s obviously good to take notice of what’s in season, as not only is it usually tastier, but it is also better for the environment. I’ve designed this week’s menus with this in mind…

Probably, the food that automatically ‘springs’ to mind is lamb. The vision of spring is often that of lambs frolicking in the meadows and, for many of us, it also means lamb on our menus, so naturally, it will be featuring on Menu Mistress this week.

However, my spring menu planning hasn’t been quite as easy as I had anticipated, as despite spring’s reputation for its abundance of fresh produce, I was surprised to learn that some ingredients, which I had expected to be in season, were actually still out of season. For example, I wanted fish to feature on this week’s menus, but apparently, spring is a quiet time in our UK waters, as the winter species have moved away and the summer species have yet to arrive, so my options were limited. Fortunately, lemon sole is very much in season from the spring through to the end of the summer, giving me the prefect opportunity to share a particularly good recipe for this beautifully delicate fish!…

This week, Menu One is ‘Lemon Sole with Spring Onions and Peas’. Lemon sole’s sweet flesh needs to be treated gently otherwise it can be easily overpowered, so in this recipe, it’s simply fried and topped with spring onions and peas with a sprinkling of lemony breadcrumbs (I have also suggested a gluten free alternative). There is nothing particularly fancy about this recipe, but it is incredibly tasty – highlighting the true flavours of spring.Menu Two is a delicious recipe for ‘Lamb with Garlic and Coriander’, the lamb racks, having been marinated in a coriander spice mix, are cooked on top of roast new potatoes and shallots, these vegetables thus soak up the lamb’s wonderful juices. Everything is roasted in one pan making it an easy dinner, any time of the week. Finally, Menu Three is my vegetarian menu, ‘Spinach and Gorgonzola Stuffed Jacket Potatoes’; a delicious recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, and yes, it is a very simple, yet satisfying midweek supper! The Gorgonzola cheese is the winning ingredient in this recipe, turning the humble potato into a show stopper – just serve with a crispy salad.

I hope you enjoy cooking some of these spring treats!…don’t forget to drop by next Tuesday for my ‘Tuesday Treat’!

Menu One

Lemon Sole with Spring Onions and Peas (Serves 4)

This dish is full of lovely fresh flavours. It is served with a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs which are flavoured with lemon zest; if you are gluten free like me, you can either substitute the breadcrumbs for gluten free ones – I use ‘Mr Crimbles Gluten Free Ready to Use Breadcrumbs’, or you can omit the breadcrumbs – it will still be delicious simply sprinkled with lemon zest and juice . Keep this dish simple – just serve with steamed new potatoes.

4 lemon sole, filleted and skinned

100g butter

Olive oil

12 spring onions, sliced

220g peas (defrosted if frozen)

16 basil leaves, roughly chopped

8 tablespoons vegetable stock (such as Marigold Swiss  Vegetable Boullion)

Plain flour for dusting (gluten free if required)

4 lemon wedges to serve

Sea salt and black pepper

For the breadcrumbs:

4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (see above for gluten free option)

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of chilli flakes

  1. Firstly toast the breadcrumbs in a frying pan, with a drizzle of olive oil. Mix with the lemon zest and chilli flakes, and put to one side.
  2. Place the butter, spring onions, peas, basil, stock and a little olive oil in a saucepan and season with salt. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat. Check the seasoning and keep warm whilst you cook the fish.
  3. Dust the fish with the flour. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the fish for about 3 minutes on each side (you will probably have to do this in batches).
  4. Place the lemon sole on plates, spoon over the pea mixture and sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs, serve with a wedge of lemon on the side and some steamed new potatoes.

Menu Two

Lamb with Garlic and Coriander (Serves 4)

This is a wonderful ‘all in one’ roast, the lamb is cooked on top of the potatoes which soak up all the delicious fatty juices!

2 racks of lamb with 6 cutlets each

2 heads of garlic

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed

8 sprigs of thyme

1kg small salad potatoes such as Charlotte, peeled and halved

350g shallots, peeled and halved

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Cut each rack into three, so that you have 6 pieces (double chops).
  2. Peel and chop two cloves of garlic and whisk together with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the vinegar, coriander seeds. Add a couple of chopped thyme sprigs and some black pepper. Marinate the lamb in this mixture in the baking tin that you will cook it in, for several hours or overnight, turning once or twice and rubbing in the marinade.
  3. When ready to cook, remove the lamb from the baking tin and set aside. Add the potatoes, the remaining, unpeeled garlic cloves and the shallots to any marinade left in the tin, adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lots of sea salt. Give it all a good mix and roast in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 30-35 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender when tested with the tip of a sharp knife, but not quite done.
  4. Turn the oven up to 220’c and place the lamb on top of the potatoes, tucking in the remaining thyme sprigs. Roast for a further 15-20 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut two of the pieces (double chops) of lamb in half so that you have four individual chops, then place one double chop and a single chop on each plate, alongside the delicious roast potatoes and shallots. Green beans with Almonds are very good served with this dish (recipe below).

Fine Green Beans with Almonds (Serves 4)

A great classic combination – and super easy to serve up!

250g fine green beans

10g butter

15g flaked almonds

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Top the green beans, place in a saucepan of salted boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes until nearly tender but still with some bite – al dente.
  2. Meanwhile melt the butter in a frying pan, when it foams add the flaked almonds. Cook until the almonds start to lightly brown – stirring continuously to ensure even browning. Remove from the heat.
  3. Drain the beans and stir into the buttery almonds. Season well with salt and pepper.

Menu Three

Spinach and Gorgonzola Stuffed Jacket Potatoes (Serves 4)

This is a delicious recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, and yes, it is a very simple, yet satisfying midweek supper! The Gorgonzola cheese is the winning ingredient in this recipe, turning the humble potato into a show stopper – just serve with a crispy salad.

4 large baking potatoes

50g butter

6 tablespoons double cream

120g Gorgonzola cheese

400g baby spinach

40g walnut halves (optional)

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all toast the walnuts (if using) in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for about 5 minutes (keep an eye on them!), then chop roughly.
  2. Pierce each potato a few times with a fork and place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake in a preheated oven, 220’c fan, for 1 hour or just over.
  3. Cut each potato in half, lengthways, scoop the flesh out into a medium bowl, setting the skins aside for later.
  4. Roughly mash the potato with 40g of butter, the cream, Gorgonzola, 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper and set aside.
  5. Take the remaining 10g of butter and divide between the potato cavities. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and return to the oven for 7-8 minutes to crisp up. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  6. Place a medium saucepan, half filled with salted water, on a high heat. Once boiling, add the spinach for about 10-15 seconds, just to wilt. Drain the spinach, squeezing out as much water as possible. Stir this into the potato flesh mixture and spoon this mash back into the empty potato skins, piled high.
  7. Bake the potatoes in the oven, 220’c fan, for 10-15 minutes, until the mash is crisp and browned. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the walnuts, if using, and serve with a side salad.

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