Eating seasonal is a chance to reacquaint yourself with true flavour of food, rather than the insipid airfreight tastes of produce flown half away around the world, to which we have all sadly become accustomed. May is a month bursting with flavours; sweet juicy tomatoes, marsh samphire that tastes of the ocean, the unique herbaceous nutty taste of asparagus and the delicate sweetness of new-season lamb. They are flavours that need little to no embellishment, just cook them simply and enjoy.
Marsh samphire grows in the tidal zone on the muddy flats around estuaries and tidal creeks. It looks like a tiny succulent, and is bitter when raw, but after cooking, it has a satisfying crunch that bursts in your mouth to unleash the taste of the sea. It is the perfect accompaniment to seafood – just steam for three to four minutes and dress with a little olive oil or butter and lemon juice and season with black pepper (samphire has a naturally salty taste and needs no salt).
Sour, fibrous all-year-round tomatoes are perhaps the best example of a food that bears no resemblance to their seasonal relatives. May is the month when the first crops of the homegrown varieties become available. Piccolo cherries are the sweetest of the British tomatoes, containing up to 12 per cent natural sugar. Other varieties include Santa, baby plum and cocktail tomatoes such as Red Choice and Aranca. To get the best out of your tomatoes, never keep them in the fridge and leave them on the vine till you are ready to eat them.
Recipe for tomato bruschetta
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh basil leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups of chopped ripe tomatoes
- Sourdough bread, cottage loaf or French stick
1. Cut the bread into slices about an inch thick. If you are using a French stick you’ll need about 12 slices. If it’s a larger loaf cut six slices and cut them in half. Toast the bread on a pre-heated griddle, until crisp with charred stripes, then cool on a wire rack and rub with the garlic and drizzle generously with olive oil.
2. Remove the cores and finely chop the tomatoes, then tear the basil leaves and mix in. Top the bread with the tomatoes and season with the salt and pepper, then drizzle with a little more olive oil before serving.
The sourness of gooseberries can make them a difficult ingredient, but they make a wonderful compliment to ingredients with a high fat content, adding a refreshing tartness that cuts through the oil. Creamy gooseberry fool is an enduring favourite but you can also use them for a zesty ice cream or frozen yoghurt. Or use this recipe for a chutney that goes well with cheese, grilled mackerel or roast pork:
Recipe for gooseberry and ginger chutney
This spicy chutney is ready to eat after a month, but will keep for many months after you make it.
- 1lb gooseberries
- 8oz onions
- 1 pint wine vinegar
- 1lb soft brown sugar
- 1½oz salt
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Sterilised jars for storage (recycle your jam and other condiment jars)
Simmer the gooseberries in a little water until they have softened, then add the chopped onions and vinegar, and cook for about ten minutes more. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil until some of the liquid has evaporated to produce a mixture with a thick consistency. Allow to cool slightly, then pour into sterilised jars with screw top lids.
British lamb is the meat of a young sheep that is up to a year old. Early season lamb is tender with a delicate taste, while the meat from older animals has a more developed flavour. The more robust flavour of the late season meats is well suited to strong seasoning and aromatics, but you can enjoy early season lamb with the minimum of ingredients. Griddle or roast cuts with a little salt, pepper and rosemary to make the most of the delicate flavour and serve with a fresh mint sauce, Jersey Royal new potatoes and asparagus.