Clocks have gone forward and the sun shines through the curtains in the morning. Yes, spring has finally managed to get a head of steam and winter will soon be a memory and a faint longing for sticky stews and meaty soups. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a few things. The English asparagus season, new season lamb (though not very early spring lamb which is like eating limp velvet and is frankly an expense too far), artichokes, blossom billowing down on me as I walk to work, the first good rocket of the year, the days getting ever longer until you can watch the last fingers of sunset at 9.00pm, people warming their faces in the sun with a smile as you catch them at it.
Spring is the time to get back into food. I’ve found myself lagging over the last month, looking out for signs that Spring was on the way, tired of the endless parade of cabbages, swedes and potatoes that seemed to be filling my veg box, tired of small hard mean looking fruit that’s been freighted in from God knows where. It’s a time that tradition dictates is a time for lovers. A time for the sap to rise and passion to stir. Yes, all of it for the food we love. I’ve never really looked forward to a season before. Yeah, I’ve bemoaned the fact that it’s pissing down with rain and dark at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday in January and wishing it was a lazy summers evening in July, but never really thought about Spring as something to anticipate. This year the yearning has been a strong one. For crisp leaves in salads, for colour and sparkle and humour. Winter food soothes and satisfies but rarely makes me laugh. It’s a lot to expect from a stew, that most staid of dishes. I’m looking for a bit of frivolity.
A dish that I found in the French Laundry Cookbook caught my eye today in the bookshop today. I’ve been waiting for someone to buy it for me since Christmas, but alas no one seems willing to splurge on my cookbook habit. Anyway, I was leafing through and saw a dish where Thomas Keller treats long juliennes of English cucumber as pasta. This being the ideal experiment for my newly acquired julienne strimmer thingy, a device a bit like a potato peeler but with teeth, I gave the recipe the once over, summarily forgot it and then made something up when I got home. I strimmed some courgette into long spaghetti like strands and sautéed then in olive oil and butter topped then with a little thinly sliced chilli, parmesan and torn basil off newly invigorated plant in the kitchen (the return of some sun has perked it up no end). Like I say, I was looking for something silly, something that would surprise and give my taste buds a kick into gear. Worked a treat too.