Dishes to cel­e­brate the end of win­ter.

Win­ter is al­most over. What bet­ter way to cel­e­brate the im­mi­nent ar­rival of spring than with some sea­sonal cook­ing?

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - For more sea­sonal spring recipes, go to de­li­cious.com.au

It may have es­caped your no­tice in your busy and im­por­tant life, but spring starts on Fri­day. Yes, fi­nally, win­ter is be­ing shown the door and we can start plan­ning a life free from sil­ver­beet. The fields will soon be filled with cute, frol­ick­ing lit­tle lambs – which in­ci­den­tally also means that you’ll be adding mint sauce to your shop­ping list.

Along with lamb, spring’s ver­dant bas­ket of sea­sonal veg­eta­bles will be crowd­ing the stalls at farm­ers’ mar­kets and your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket. With this in mind – and in the hope of pro­vid­ing a lit­tle culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion – let me share what I am plan­ning for this beau­ti­ful bounty.

MAKE A SEA­SONAL PESTO

Whether you call it a pesto, a hum­mus or a dip, in-sea­son veg­etable purees can be spread on toast, tossed through pasta or used as a sauce for fish or grilled meats.

Try mak­ing a broc­coli pesto. Puree lightly steamed flo­rets with grated pecorino, an an­chovy and a gar­lic clove, along with a driz­zle of olive oil and a cou­ple of ice cubes. To make it creamy, mash in some av­o­cado and lemon juice rather than too much olive oil. Use this in­stead of av­o­cado for your toast in the morn­ing so you don’t have to snub your nose at the mort­gage.

Other great break­fast pestos to try in­clude blitz­ing peas with a lit­tle ri­cotta, olive oil and al­monds, and then stir­ring in some finely chopped mint, or blanch­ing as­para­gus and whizzing it with gar­lic, pine nuts, parme­san and olive oil. Sea­son both with a lit­tle salt and lemon juice.

IT’S AL­MOST SPRING PASTA

An­tic­i­pate the new sea­son (and the ar­rival of Italy’s clas­sic pri­mav­era or spring pasta) by mak­ing an “al­most spring” pasta us­ing the pro­duce that is cur­rently com­ing into sea­son.

Fry rounds of leeks in olive oil. When they have soft­ened, add trimmed and halved green beans, equal lengths of as­para­gus and some peas (fresh or frozen). Heat un­til the colour changes to a brighter green, then re­move from the pan. Toss a good splash of white wine into the pan and re­duce by half. Re­turn the veg, the cooked, drained pasta and a splash of the starchy pasta wa­ter. Toss to emul­sify. Sea­son with salt, a lit­tle lemon zest and black pep­per.

This sauce is great with far­falle and to­tally sen­sa­tional with the fresh spinach pici pasta that we made a few months ago. You’ll find the recipe at de­li­cious.com.au. Serve with grated parme­san, fresh ri­cotta or some finely shaved, salted ri­cotta.

MAKE SOME­THING SOUPER

As the weather gets warmer, you can go for a slightly lighter style of soup as long as the in­ten­sity of flavour isn’t com­pro­mised.

Try a Por­tuguese caldo verde, made with smoked pork hock and all the leafy greens that are cur­rently caught in the re­volv­ing door be­tween the two sea­sons, such as sil­ver­beet, kale, cab­bage and spinach. You can mash in a few pota­toes for a creamier tex­ture and more body, but you shouldn’t need to if you just use some of the stock from cook­ing the pork hocks.

STEP UP YOUR STIR-FRY

Asian greens are com­ing into sea­son now. So take some gai lan (Chi­nese broc­coli), and halve length­wise. Fry minced gar­lic and grated ginger slowly and gen­tly with a lit­tle oil un­til golden. Place the greens in the pan, cut side down. Cover and cook slowly un­til they turn bright green. Splash in soy and move around to coat. Cook un­til the soy goes sticky and the cut side of the veg­eta­bles coat and catch.

Serve the veg lay­ered on top of steamed white fish fil­lets with sliced chilli and spring onions, or just add slices of lap cheong, spring onion and a hand­ful of peeled prawns at the end of cook­ing. Serve this bulkier ver­sion with steamed brown or jas­mine rice.

FAREWELL WIN­TER WITH A ’ROOT

A beet­root, that is. We are com­ing to the end of win­ter and that’s rea­son enough to cel­e­brate by roast­ing the last of the pump­kins and beet­roots to go into a warm salad.

Wrap beets in foil and place in a 200°C oven for an hour. After 15 min­utes, add finger-thick slices of pump­kin, sprayed with oil. Cook un­til soft and catch­ing at the edges. Warm some mar­malade with a splash of or­ange juice and spiced with a lit­tle cin­na­mon and ground car­damom. Brush this over the pump­kin. Re­turn to the oven to set the glaze. Re­move the beet­root and, when cooled a lit­tle, un­wrap the beets, rub off the skin with the foil and chop into chunks.

Serve beet­root and pump­kin on a warmed plat­ter of but­tered cous­cous topped with olive oil-tossed pis­ta­chios, crum­bled feta, and mint and pars­ley leaves that are tossed in or­ange juice.

If you need meat, grilled lamb chops are per­fect. You can even coat them with a dukkah of crushed pis­ta­chios, cumin seeds and co­rian­der seeds.

SEA­SON’SEAT­INGS Matt Pre­ston's trofie with nas­tur­tium and macadamia pesto. Find the recipe on de­li­cious.com.au

MATT PRE­STON

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