While we wait patiently for the spoils of spring, March provides an opportunity for home cooks to become more creative with flavours. Look to the countryside, the seasonal larder and the spice rack and you’ll discover a treasure trove of flavoursome ingredients that will allow you to produce mouth-watering dishes.
1- Wild Garlic
March signals the start of the foraging season for these delicious leaves, so be sure to harness its amazing flavour while you can! Wild garlic can be found in most deciduous woodland areas in Britain and is easily identifiable by its pointed green leaf growing on a single stem. Where one plant grows, others most usually follow. There’s nothing quite like discovering a sea of green leaves and the hit of their potent aroma.
Wild Garlic Mashed Potato
Simmer the potatoes in a pan of hot water for 20 minutes and drain. Give the wild garlic a good wash and pat dry with some kitchen roll. Melt a large knob of butter in a large frying pan and add the wild garlic. Fry for 30 seconds until wilted slightly. Mash the potato with some butter and salt and pepper, then stir in the wild garlic leaves.
Wild Garlic Soup
Heat a knob of butter in a saucepan and add potatoes and onion. Season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 10 minutes until softened. Add 1 litre of vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then throw in the wild garlic and simmer for 2 minutes. Liquidise with a handheld blender and stir in a glug of single cream. Season to taste.
2- Luscious Leaves
Nettles and Sorrel – With its sharp lemony flavour, sorrel is a leaf that can compliment many different dishes. Why not combine it with the subtle taste of nettles in a delicious veggie risotto to really make the most of what’s in season?
Garlic Mustard – This punchy herb is easy to find amongst many British hedgerows. It is known in some areas as an invasive weed, so there’s even more reason to start picking it! Treat it as a salad leaf and you’ll adore its tang on your tongue.
Sea Kale – The white, forced stems of this brassica taste like a cross between asparagus and celery and are in season from January to March. Just remember not to over-harvest this coastal treasure so that leaves can mature for pickings later on in the year. Simplicity is key when it comes to this veg, so serve it slightly steamed with a suitable partner such as a poached egg.
With its versatile flavour, nutmeg is a match made in heaven for many sweet and savoury dishes. It’s definitely worth buying whole instead of ground in order to preserve its evocative taste for much longer. Be sure to have a grater handy and you’ll be reaching for this lip-smacking spice time and time again.
Spiced French Beans
Simmer the beans gently in water over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes and drain. Place them in a bowl and cover with lashings of butter and season with salt and pepper. Finally, grate over some nutmeg to add extra depth of flavour.
Custard & Nutmeg Tart
In a large bowl, whisk together 4 free-range eggs, 500ml milk, vanilla extract, a generous grating of nutmeg and some orange zest. Leave to chill in the fridge to allow the flavours to combine. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/ Gas 6 and place a baking tray inside. Prepare a 23cm tart tin with pre-prepared shortcrust pastry
and blind bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the oven to 180°C /Fan 160°C/Gas 4, add the custard mix to the tin and bake for 30 minutes until the custard is set with a slight wobble in the middle.
4- Curry Powder
A food cupboard staple; just a pinch of this spice mix goes a very long way. It has the potential to lift even the most mundane of weekday meals. Sprinkle it into your chicken pie filling, mix into soups for an Asian kick, whip up a steaming bowl of kedgeree – you are limited only by your imagination.
Curried Sweet Potato Fries
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into the shape of fries and place in an even layer over a baking tray. Drizzle with rapeseed oil and season
with salt and pepper, then sprinkle over some curry powder and bake for 30-35 minutes, turning regularly. Enjoy piping hot.
Create a marinade by combining Greek yoghurt, grated lemon zest, minced root ginger and curry powder. Mix thoroughly and add raw king prawns, making sure each one is thoroughly coated. Leave to marinate for at least 6 hours. Heat a griddle pan on high and cook the prawns for a minute or so on each side until slightly charred but still tender and juicy.
5- Bay Leaves
The pungent, spicy flavour of these popular leaves can create a fantastic depth to so many dishes. They are one of the only herbs that do not lose their flavour once dried, so they’re well worth the investment.
Rich Beef Gravy
Heat fresh beef stock gently in a saucepan, stir in two heaped tablespoons of plain flour, making sure there are no lumps. Add a dash of red wine and a bay leaf and bring to the boil before simmering until you have the desired consistency.
Decadent Rice Pudding
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. In an oven-proof dish, combine short grain pudding rice, light brown sugar, whole milk, unsalted butter cut into cubes, double cream and 3 bay leaves. Stir well and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
A very humble ingredient, but also an incredibly useful one; honey can be used in countless sweet and savoury dishes to add another level of deliciousness. Marinades, glazes, dips, toppings – there’s so many ways to incorporate it into your everyday cooking.
Honey Glazed Parsnips
Adding a generous drizzle to your oven roasted parsnips will create a gorgeous caramelisation and enhance the natural sweetness of this seasonal root veg. It creates a side dish to that’s ideal for any roast dinner.
Salmon Marinated in Honey & Garlic
Runny honey works as a wonderful glaze for many types of meats, but it can also be used on fish! Mix together honey, soy sauce, lemon juice and chilli flakes in a bowl. Sear salmon fillets in a hot pan, add a couple of cloves of garlic and then baste the fish until cooked to your liking. It’s a wonderfully quick and easy dish that’s ideal for a midweek dinner.
Known for its many health benefits and delicious mild, peppery flavour, turmeric is a fantastic ingredient to pep up your meals. When used in combination with other spices such as chilli powder or garam masala it’s easy to create flavoursome food in no time at all.
Roasted Spiced Cauliflower
Chop up a head of cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and arrange them in one layer over a baking tray. Drizzle with rapeseed oil and sprinkle over generous amounts of turmeric, garam masala and cayenne chilli powder. Season with salt and pepper and massage the spices into the cauliflower, making sure that all of the pieces are equally covered. Roast in a preheated oven at 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6 for 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately, but save the delicious crispy leftovers for yourself!
Turmeric Scrambled Eggs
Crack a couple of free-range eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork. Melt a knob of butter in a non-stick pan and add some finely sliced onion, a sprinkling of turmeric and cumin powder and cook over a low heat to soften. Add a handful of spinach leaves and wilt them down. Push the vegetables to one side and add the beaten eggs into the free space. Over a low heat, stir the eggs constantly until cooked to your liking, then mix all of the ingredients together and serve.