Summer is finally here – the weather has started to get warmer, the sun is beginning to shine, there are more and more opportunities to eat outside and – here at Petersham – beautiful produce is starting to come in thick and fast.
In our garden, rocket is growing in profusion, as are young, early-season pea shoots, as sweet and delicate as the rocket is peppery. Supermarket-bought salads can't compare with leaves that come straight from the garden and I am craving their clean, clear tastes. Salads are on the menu for the first time in months and there is colour on the plate; a joy to see after the long months of winter when food – though delicious – does not have the sense of life that it does at this time of year. Broad beans, peas and asparagus, courgettes, strawberries and early-season tomatoes. Not to mention basil, one of my very favourite herbs, has begun to make its first appearance of the year.
We like to take as much advantage as we can of asparagus, peas and broad beans, as their season is relatively short and, by the end of June, they will have vanished for another year. Here are some simple recipes that showcase this beautiful produce. I urge you to use them now as much as you possibly can.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com
Pea shoot and purple basil salad
Both these leaves are in our vegetable gardens now. As simple as this salad sounds, it is sweet, nutty and aniseedy, all at the same time. Not enough for a course by itself, it is nonetheless a beautiful accompaniment to other dishes, clean and palate-cleansing. Purple basil has a unique flavour, tasting slightly of fennel, with ragged leaves – very beautiful to behold. Pea shoots have started to become widely available.
2 handfuls of pea shoots, washed very gently and patted dry with a clean dish cloth
1 bunch of purple basil. Unless very dirty, do not bother to wash, because it is extremely delicate
The zest of one lemon
1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
The juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil
Place the pea shoots and basil into a bowl and add the lemon zest and Parmesan. Season lightly with salt and pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice and olive oil. Toss together very lightly using your fingertips and serve straight away; the leaves are too delicate to stay dressed for very long. '
Veal shank with broad beans and artichokes
This dish is similar to ossobuco, but without the tomato and with the addition of artichokes and broad beans. The salad of pea shoots and purple basil (page 24) is the perfect accompaniment.
4 slices of veal shank, each of similar size (ask your butcher to prepare)
Sea salt and a little black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks
4 sticks of celery, sliced into chunks
4 fresh bay leaves
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
1 bunch of marjoram
10 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
1 bottle of dry white wine
8 globe artichokes
500g/1lb broad beans still in their pods
For the gremolata
The zest of one lemon
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled, very finely chopped
Trim the veal shank of any excess fat and season with salt and pepper. Place the oil into a heavy-based pan large enough to hold the meat. Place over a medium to high heat and brown the meat well on both sides, then remove from the pan and set aside. Pour off any excess fat, turn down the heat to low and add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook slowly, stirring every now and then for 20 minutes, then add the bay leaves, chilli, marjoram and garlic. Return the meat to the pan and add the wine.
Place a lid on the pan and cook gently for an hour and a half (with the heat low, the meat becomes so tender that it will fall from the bone). Prepare the artichokes by taking a sharp knife and trimming around the base, removing the tough outer leaves. Now trim the leaves, removing the tougher leaves at their tips, slice in half diagonally, and scoop out the bristly inner core. Add to the veal and cook for a further half an hour. While the artichokes are cooking, pod the broad beans. Boil a pan of salted water and blanch the beans for a minute.
Drain and double-pod to reveal the bright-green, tender little beans within. Add to the pot and cook for a further 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, adjust the seasoning and spoon into bowls.
Top with gremolata: toss together all the ingredients and sprinkle over the veal just before serving.
Raw courgettes, crème fraîche, Parmesan and prosciutto
At this time of year, try these sweet young vegetables in their purest form. They taste more of themselves than when they are cooked and have a lovely, crunchy texture. This makes an interesting, light first course.
1 small, young courgette, without blemishes
40g/11/2oz Parmesan, shaved using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler
Sea salt and black pepper
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
4 tbsp crème fraîche
8 very fine slices of prosciutto
Shave the courgette lengthwise, using a peeler, and place in a bowl with the slices of Parmesan. Season with a little salt and pepper. Be careful not to use too much salt, as both the Parmesan and prosciutto have a substantial salt content. Dress with half the olive oil and a small squeeze of lemon juice. Divide among four plates, then lay over a slice of prosciutto, top with the crème fraîche, then another layer of courgette, and a final slice of prosciutto. Drizzle over the rest of the oil and serve.