Green light: Skye Gyngell shows how to make the most of fresh spring produce

With spring's arrival, fresh, healthy produce is plentiful once again. That's the signal for elegant, simple recipes, says Skye Gyngell
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Finally spring is upon us and I could not be more excited. We've been cooking these past few months with fairly limited produce and it's felt restrictive. But our garden at Petersham is beginning to awaken: little lettuce leaves are raising their heads, and tomatoes, spinach, beetroot and rainbow chard have all been planted in preparation for summer. Last week we saw the first of the English asparagus from our suppliers and it won't be long before broad beans and peas appear. In honour of this produce, here are some recipes that showcase its beauty.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627,

Salad of cooked spinach and peas with rocket

I really like the combination of cooked and raw food in salads – it creates different textures. Pea shoots (the leaves of the pea plant) are a lovely addition, tasting almost more of the peas than themselves. I serve this salad as an accompaniment to fish.

Serves 4

250g/8oz peas, podded
200g/7oz young spinach leaves, well rinsed
A handful of rocket
A handful of pea shoots
1tbsp Parmesan, grated
The zest and juice of one lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
80ml/3fl oz olive oil

Heat a well-salted pot of water. Once boiling, add the peas and cook for four minutes. Drain and set aside. Place a separate pan over a medium heat and, when warm, add the well-rinsed spinach – no need to add water – and cook until just wilted. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze out the water in the spinach using your hands – it is important the spinach is as dry as possible, or the salad will taste watery. Wash and pat dry the rocket and pea shoots and add to the bowl along with the peas and spinach. Season well with Parmesan, lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss together gently with your fingers.

Asparagus with lemon mayonnaise

Spanish asparagus has been available in the shops since mid-January, but I prefer to wait for the English variety; its season runs from early May until the end of June. Here they are served with a simple mayonnaise, whose sharp and unctuous consistency works beautifully with the sweet flavour of spring asparagus.

Serves 4

3 egg yolks
The juice of one lemon
A little sea salt and black pepper
150ml/5fl oz mild extra-virgin olive oil
8 asparagus spears per person

Place the egg yolks into a blender with the lemon juice and a little salt and pepper and combine. Slowly pour the oil through the funnel in the top with the blender running, drip by drip, until it is amalgamated, forming the mayonnaise. Set aside while you cook the asparagus.

Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Snap off the base of the asparagus using your hands. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, drop the asparagus in and cook for two minutes. Drain in a colander and season with a little salt and pepper and a teaspoon or so of olive oil.

Arrange on four plates and place a dollop of the mayonnaise on the side. This is just as good whether it's served warm or at room temperature.

Finely sliced raw artichokes with mint, olive oil and Parmesan

Raw artichokes have a lovely, deliciously clean but nutty taste. The mint adds a fresh top-note here, while the Parmesan's saltiness brings the flavours together.

Serves 4

Allow one artichoke per person
Sea salt and black pepper
40ml/11/2fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of one lemon
One bunch of mint, leaves only, finely sliced
50g/2oz Parmesan, sliced into fine slivers

Prepare the artichokes by rinsing and gently patting dry. Using a sharp knife, trim off the tough outer leaves. Slice the tops off and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the choke (inner bristles). Place in acidulated water (cold water with a slice of lemon in it) to prevent discolouring if you are not serving immediately.

When ready to serve the salad, remove the artichokes from the water and dry on a clean dish cloth. Slice lengthwise as finely as possible. Arrange on a plate and season with salt and a little black pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil, squeeze over the lemon juice and finish by scattering over the mint and Parmesan. Serve at once.