What’s in Season – June

June 4, 2013 by The Co-operative Food Strawberry Milkshake

I was walking through the woods this morning with the dog, it was warm and a little damp, and it felt as if I should be able to see the vegetation pushing skyward all around me. The colours were lush and the air thick with the scent of cow parsley and late blossom. It was all quite special, and it got me thinking about the wonderful seasonal fruit and vegetables that is now arriving in our shops.

Rhubarb had long fallen out of fashion, but I’m delighted to see it in use again by many of the TV chefs as well as appearing in luxury yoghurts and desserts. The bitter sweet forced rhubarb is favoured for its tenderness and was once a considerable industry in the north of England where the rhubarb triangle around Leeds and Wakefield produced 90% of the world’s crop. It’s one of those plants that’s technically a vegetable, but tends to be thought of as a fruit and gets debated in pub quizzes.

Does anyone remember rhubarb and custard sweets? Or even the TV cartoon?

Salads are in abundance now, and if you’re lucky and have friends with allotments you might just get to share in their crops. Lovely broad beans and peas, both of which are great eaten young and fresh are picking now too. I like to make a broad bean and pea pilaf, basically it’s basmati rice cooked in stock with some spices like cumin, coriander and cinnamon and served up with yoghurt and lemon – it’s like a drier version of a risotto and more of an accompaniment than a main dish.

And having mentioned risotto, now is the time to make one of my favourites – asparagus and lemon. Asparagus is all the better for minimal steaming and eaten as fresh as you can get it, it is also good in a light risotto made with just a stock and no cream. The lemon sets it off wonderfully.

I can feel a seasonal feast coming on here, and there may not be any meat in sight. Watercress is at its best now too, let’s serve it as a side salad with our risotto. It’s a peppery leaf that’s a bit like a smoother version of rocket, and that’s no surprise as it’s related to mustard. Watercress is a type of nasturtium, and of course nasturtium flowers make a colourful edible garnish for any salad – as well as being the favourite dinner for caterpillars!

Another favourite right now is the fabulous Jersey Royal. If ever there was a potato that was worth getting excited over then it has to be these little beauties. Lightly cooked, tossed in butter and cracked black pepper, they rarely make it to the table without several mysteriously disappearing. And if you cook too many don’t worry, they are delicious cold too.

Thinking about it now, I’m going to try a simple salad of Jersey Royals and steamed purple sprouting. I think just a light drizzle of oil should make a colourful and delicious dish, maybe I’ll add a few anchovy fillets – the ones that come in oil rather than the stronger salted ones.

It’s a time of plenty, and so rewarding to be in the kitchen and faced with the delightful challenge of how to make the best of wonderful fresh ingredients.

Just to finish off, although you can buy strawberries most of the year around these days, right now you’ll start seeing British ones on the shelves – make the most of it, they tend to be riper, sweeter, and just too good to miss.

Casey’s Kitchen

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our big fruit and veg deals: http://www.co-operativefood.co.uk/deals/Shopping-List/fruit-and-veg/

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