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
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own