Come out of winter hibernation with fresh recipes.
Finally, spring has sprung. It seems it's more of the relentless-rain sort of spring, rather than the crisp, clear, sunny days I've dreamed about through winter, but I'm hoping they aren't too far away.
Spring is just about my favourite season for produce. Even though we now have access to imported and out-of-season fruit and vegetables year-round, it's so exciting when spring comes to know that some things are still seasonal. There's nothing like fresh new season asparagus, which I'm told is late this year because of the bad winter, so more about that in a few weeks.
My cooking gets lighter and greener, much like a lot of people's, I imagine. Salads are packed with fresh vegetables and leafy greens, plus fresh herbs, lots of lemons and garlic and a grain.
I've been cooking a lot with freekeh, a small, slightly gritty grain, similar to bulghar or faro. It gives a nutty flavour to salads, and makes a great base.
I've also been enjoying a good-quality miso paste in my pantry. It's great in Asian-style soups and added to stock. Whisked with a bit of water and drizzled over roast vegetables is also great - eggplant is especially good. In salad dressing it adds a depth of flavour with an added tangy quality, making it nice and fresh for spring. Silverbeet is still running rampant in the garden, but you can replace it in this salad with any leafy green.
This pasta dish is exactly what I want out of a spring midweek dinner - 20 minutes to prepare, plenty of veges and minimal dishes. The fennel's distinctive aniseed flavour mellows as it cooks and it complements the bitterness of the cavolo nero well.
My fennel has turned into a bit of a forest - I've been picking the long fronds and having them in a vase in my kitchen.
As with most pasta dishes, this one is greatly improved with the garnishing: good-quality flaky sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil and a generous grating of fresh Parmesan. A few fennel fronds and some lemon zest really top this one off.
If you've been hibernating this winter it's time to celebrate. Get in the garden or to your local market or you fruit and veg shop and try some quick, easy, and most importantly delicious, spring dinners.