Skye Gyngell: British spring produce is here all too fleetingly so catch it while you can

British spring produce comes and goes in a flash – but while it is here, you'd be foolish not to make the most of the deliciously vibrant flavours

British produce never stays with us for long – and that is one undeniable thing about its charm. We wait with anticipation, use it with great excitement and within six weeks it has vanished, so we must wait patiently until the next year, when we greet it with as much joy as we did the year before.

Indigenous produce for me is like children: a great marker of time. I was pondering on this just the other day, when I realised it will be no more than the blink of an eye before 12 August is upon us: the first official day of game season. But as we say goodbye to the glorious produce of spring – peas, spinach and asparagus – I could not resist giving a few final recipes with which to usher out the season.

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

Chickpea, spinach and sweet potato on toast

Chickpeas are good any time of the year, but wonderful teamed with fresh spinach. The trick is to flavour them really well – chilli, lemon juice, olive oil and lots of herbs. This is good enough to eat as a salad all on its own. Here, I have paired them with spinach, toast and sweet potato.

Serves 4

200g/7oz cooked chickpeas
The juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch of mint, leaves only, finely chopped
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped, seeds removed
Sea salt
70ml/3fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil
A good pinch of salt
100g/31/2oz small-leaf spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Place the cooked chickpeas in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice. Add the garlic, mint, parsley and chilli. Season generously with sea salt and pour over the olive oil. Toss together really well with your fingers and set aside.

Now peel the sweet potato and chop into generous chunks. Place in cold, well-salted water, enough to just cover, and place over a medium heat. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook until tender then remove from the heat and drain. Season with salt and drizzle over the olive oil while still warm.

Wash the spinach well and wilt over a gentle heat. Once wilted, remove from the heat immediately and drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water, dress with the olive oil and season with a little salt and black pepper. Now toss the chickpeas, spinach and sweet potato together. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Grill four bits of chunky, peasant-style bread until golden brown. Pile on the chickpea, spinach and sweet potato mixture then drizzle with a little basil oil (see recipe for grilled rabbit, below). A grilled tomato also works well as an optional garnish.

Serve at room temperature.

Pea and asparagus soup with pancetta and rice

This soup could almost be served up as a meal in itself: sloppy, thick and chock-full of good things. It is one of my favourite soups that we cook at this time of year.

Serves 4

40g/11/2oz unsalted butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 eighth-inch slab of pancetta
1 bunch of mint
150g/5oz rice such as calasparro or carneroli
1 litre/13/4 pints chicken stock
200g/7oz fresh peas, podded
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed where they will happily bend and snap
75g/3oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place a large, heavy-based pan over a low heat. Add the butter and, when it has dissolved, add the chopped onion, pancetta and mint. Season with a little salt and pepper, and sweat gently for 15 minutes – the onions should be translucent but not brown.

Now add the rice and stir well to coat in the onion and butter. Cook for 10 minutes until the rice is just beginning to become slightly translucent around the edges. Pour over the chicken stock and increase the heat slightly. Cook until the rice is just beginning to become tender, but definitely still has a chalky bite. At this point, add the podded peas and continue to cook until the peas are really tender – this will take five minutes or so but taste them just to make sure. Chop the asparagus into slices of about eighth of an inch and add to the soup along with the Parmesan cheese.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper, remove the bunch of mint and the pancetta, ladle into bowls, and serve.

Grilled rabbit with basil oil

Rabbit is a favourite white meat of mine – farmed rabbit preferably, because wild-rabbit meat is a lot stronger and very often riddled with shot. Rabbit lends itself best to either slow or very quick cooking; anything in between can leave it tasting tough. Here, the rabbit is cooked quickly over a grill and served with zingy basil and juicy tomatoes.

Serves 4

4 legs of rabbit, top bone of the thigh removed (ask your butcher to do this)
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 very ripe sweet tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 small bunch of small-leaf purple basil

For the basil oil

3 large bunches of basil
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200ml/7fl oz extra-virgin olive oil

Start by making the basil oil. Pull the basil leaves from their stalks and put them into a food processor with the garlic and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Process until the basil is finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly trickle in the extra-virgin olive oil through the funnel and continue to blend until you have a beautiful, moss-green purée. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour into a jar, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (If you have any left over, this basil oil will keep well in the fridge for up to a week.)

Now heat your grill to its highest setting. Rub the rabbit legs with the olive oil and then season with the salt and pepper. Once the grill is hot, lay the rabbit pieces on and cook without turning for five minutes – the rabbit should be well-browned. Turn and cook on the under-side and cook for a further eight minutes, by which time the rabbit should be cooked through to the bone. Remove and let them rest for a few minutes.

Season the tomatoes with a little salt and pepper, drizzle with the basil oil and place the cooked rabbit on top. Spoon over a little more basil oil, and, if you can find it, scatter over some purple basil and serve immediately.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week