Late spring is one of the best months for fresh produce, with many fresh green vegetables and herbs being available. The weather also means that more of us prefer to have lighter food and a desire to eat outdoors.
Spring lamb truly begins to make it to our tables in May. Make the most of the tender lamb by enjoying rare roasted legs and racks of lamb and quick to cook lamb cutlets (why not try cooking them on the barbecue).
Veal is also good in spring, now that you can actually purchase free range veal that have been bred outdoors with their mothers, unlike the Dutch variety that are celled up indoors from birth and force-fed milk. Veal marries well with sage. Place a sage leaf on thin escalopes of veal and then wrap it with Parma ham and lightly pan fry it in a little olive oil. Accompany the veal with some freshly cooked fettuccine with a light tomato sauce or lightly crumb escalopes and pan fry them serving the veal with a slice of lemon and accompanied with spinach and new potatoes.
Wild salmon is more widely available in May to July. Wild salmon is less fatty than the farmed variety and the flesh has a fuller flavour. To recognize whole wild salmon you look at its head which is more pointed and it has sharper teeth and they tend to be smaller. Wild salmon is much more expensive than farmed but it is a high quality fish that is best prepared simply e.g.: Poached, steamed or grilled and accompanied by new potatoes and a little salad. Farmed salmon and sea trout are also plentiful in May, why not try our recipe for "Salmon Fillets with a Skirlies Crust".
Skate is good in May and is excellent filleted and deep fried in a light beer or tempura batter, or poach it and remove the flesh from the cartilage and serve it in a salad.
Monkfish, turbot and whitebait are of good quality, along with a wide selection of shellfish including scallops and whelks. Crab and lobster represent value for money in May. Try lobster accompanied with quality steak for a great Surf and Turf (see our recipe).
May shouts out Asparagus as English Asparagus season becomes fully underway in May, out tasting the imported varieties that are available all year round. Green asparagus is the most common in Britain thin or thick while in France and Italy the white variety is considered a delicacy. Originally asparagus was known as Sparrowgrass this name came about from the original name "asparagus" being mispronounced. Asparagus at its freshest is best cooked simply, steamed or boiled until just cooked and dressed with a little butter, lemon and seasoning. Asparagus is delicious with eggs, try serving it with a homemade hollandaise sauce or poached eggs. It also makes an excellent soup and is mouth watering in a risotto or pasta dishes.
Jersey royal new potatoes are at their best in May. These small morsels are famous for their creamy firm texture. As for asparagus these are best simply scrubbed (leave the skin on) and boil them until just tender and serve them with a little butter or creme fraiche.
Fresh peas and broad beans make it to the stores and while they are young they are sweet and tender making a great change from horrible frozen ones. Take advantage of young broad beans that can be simply stringed and eaten whole, in later months you will need to depod the beans and peel off the greyish outer skin. Peas and broad beans are best cooked briefly in boiling water and served hot or cold and are delicious with mint and parsley or toss them with a little finely chopped bacon. Try pureeing them with mint and a little yogurt or creme fraiche and serve with scallops or lamb cutlets. Fresh peas feature in our "Spring Vegetable Barley Risotto".
Anyone who loves gardening will know that herbs are in season as they start to grow at a seemingly amazing rate in the Spring months. Fresh herbs add fresh and fragrant flavours an essential part to many dishes such as "Pot Roasted Tarragon Chicken" and "Lavender Ice Cream".
Small young beetroots, turnips, cauliflower and carrots make great spring and summer dishes. While purple sprouting broccoli is still in its short season. Cucumber, spinach, kale andwatercress are also very good in May and feature in many of this months recipes.
May is not a good month for British fruit as we wait in bated breath for the berries promised in summer.
Outdoor rhubarb still makes up the main British fruit available delicious cooked simply with a little sugar by itself or accompanied with fresh, frozen or tinned berries or apple on its own or in pie or crumble.
Hothouse British strawberries begin arriving at the stores in mid May.
Imported stone fruit such as apricots, cherries and nectarines from hotter countries such as Italy and America make for good eating in May.
Spring brings our gardens and land alive with flowers and wild plants which are often overlooked. The best of the flowers are the elderflowers which have a short flowering period in May and early summer, at which time many of us use their fragrant flowers to prepare drinks and desserts. A simple way to prepare them is to simply deep fry the flowers in a sweet cider batter and dust them with a little icing sugar. Pansy petals also make a colourful addition to a simple salad of mixed small salad leaves with fresh herbs.
Nettles can be found growing all year but it is only in spring that their leaves are small; later only the nettle tips are suitable for eating as the leaves become larger and coarse. Nettles can be found growing around walkways, wasteland, parks and rivers everywhere. Collect them wearing thick gloves and cut the small leaves and tips off and place them in a basket or bag to be sorted later. When nettle is heated above 50C it loses its stinging toxins and becomes similar to spinach and can be used in much the same way.
There are many books on the subject of wild food, which are worthwhile studying before you start collecting food from the wild.