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Seasonal Recipes and What's in Season Guide

Seasonal Recipes

Simple, straight forward seasonal food recipes that are easy to prepare, using fine, fresh and local ingredients, tried, trusted and brought to you by the Essex Gourmet Food and Drink Guide...

Whether you are cooking for yourself, the family or a dinner party the following recipes, gleened from friends, family and some celebrity chefs are sure to please - all Tried, Trusted and Enjoyed.

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What's in Season in MAY?

Aubergine Asparagus
Halibut Lemon Sole
Rocket Samphire
Sardines Spring Lamb
Fresh fish and shellfish are abundant at this time of year and for months to come, choose amongst fresh Crab, John Dory and Sea Bass for wonderful flavour. For a touch of green, Spinach and Broccoli are still fantastic.

Simple Seasonal Recipes

Seasonal Recipes at a Glance

Recipe Archive
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Asian Aubergine and Pork Hotpot Recipe

Asian Aubergine and Pork Hotpot

Aubergines are firm fleshy fruits, although they are used as a vegetable and are fabulous grilled or baked. The flesh when cooked becomes soft and succulent. They are widely used in Asian, Spanish and Greek dishes and are very good in curries. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to salt aubergines as modern varieties are a great deal less bitter than they used to be. This recipe is one of my favourites and although it looks complex it is quite simple to prepare. Asian Aubergine and Pork Hotpot
Serves:  4
Preparation Time:  15 mins
Cooking Time:  1 hour 20 mins
3 tbsp Sunflower oil
750g of skinless pork belly, cut into large chunks
2 Aubergines, cut into large chunks
2 tbsp Dark muscovado sugar
5 Star anise
1 Cinnamon stick
1 Large Onion, chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
A very large knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely sliced or grated
1 Red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 Bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated, stalks finely chopped
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1. Pre heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

2. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in an ovenproof sauté pan and brown the meat well (you may have to do this in batches), then scoop out of the pan.

3. Add the rest of the oil and the aubergine, brown on all sides, and then scoop out and add to the pork.

4. Tip the sugar into the pan and leave to caramelise slightly, then return the pork and aubergine to the pan with the star anise and cinnamon, coating it all in the sticky caramel.

5. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and half of the chilli, and cook for a few mins with the pork.

6. Add the coriander stalks and splash in the fish sauce and enough water (or stock if you prefer) to come to about a third of the way up, or half way up if you want more sauce.

7. Cover and place the dish, undisturbed, in the oven for 1 hr, then remove from the oven and add the lime juice and more fish sauce to taste.

8. Stir through half the coriander leaves and the remaining chilli, and scatter over the rest of the coriander.

You should have a hotpot of tender meat with soft aubergines all in a punchy little sauce. Fabulous served simply with steamed or boiled rice.
When buying Aubergines, look for glossy, smooth and unblemished skin and weighty, firm flesh. Store in the fridge for around 4-6 days.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano ...
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Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

I included an Asparagus recipe last month, although cannot resist offering another to celebrate the new season British asparagus, after all, it is popularly heralded as the best asparagus in the world and the season is so short. This month I have chosen the absolute classic of asparagus with hollandaise sauce – it is a classic for a reason you know. This is Mark Hix's recipe and works a treat. Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Serves:  4
Preparation Time:  15 mins
Cooking Time:  10 mins
1kg medium asparagus
For the hollandaise
40ml white wine vinegar
40ml water
1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
A few sprigs of tarragon
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
200g unsalted butter
3 small egg yolks
Freshly ground white pepper
1. For the hollandaise, put the wine vinegar, water, shallot, herbs and peppercorns into a small pan and reduce the liquid by boiling for a few minutes until there is no more than a dessertspoonful. Strain the liquor through a sieve and leave to cool.

2. To clarify the butter, melt it slowly in a pan, then simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat, leave to cool a little, then pour off the clarified butter that has separated form the whey; discard the whey. (Clarifying helps to keep the hollandaise thick.)

3. Put the egg yolks and half of the vinegar reduction in a small heatproof bowl (or double boiler). Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk, using a hand-held electric beater, until the mixture begins to thicken and become frothy. Slowly trickle in the butter, whisking continuously. If the butter is added too quickly, the sauce will separate.

4. When you've added two-thirds of the butter, taste the sauce and add a little more, or all, of the remaining vinegar reduction. Then add the rest of the butter. The sauce shouldn't be too vinegary, but the vinegar should just cut the oiliness of the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm, but not hot, place until needed. If necessary, the hollandaise can be reheated over a bowl of hot water and lightly whisked again before serving.
For the asparagus, bring a pan of well-salted water to the boil. Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus, then add to the pan. Cook in gently simmering salted water for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and arrange on warm plates.

Either spoon the hollandaise sauce over the tips of just-cooked asparagus, or serve separately in small bowls. Eat with your fingers; it tastes much better.
When buying asparagus look for firm green stems and tight, crisp tips. To store asparagus, Trim the ends and stand them upright in a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom. Cover with a loose or perforated plastic bag and store spears in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Alsace Pinot Blanc or Dry Muscat ...
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Course Sardine Pate Recipe

Course Sardine Pate

I love fresh sardines, especially when they are simply barbequed, or marinated in piri piri sauce and grilled – an excellent lunch or supper served with a wedge of lemon and a simple salad. Their firm meaty flesh is also high in Omega 3 which is so good for you. For a quick and tasty starter or lunch, try this pate recipe, it really is very good. Course Sardine Pate
Serves:  4
Preparation Time:  20 mins
Cooking Time:  5 mins
505g (1lb 2oz) sardines, cleaned and filleted
1 x 15ml spoon (1 tablespoon) olive oil
30g (1oz) unsalted butter, softened
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
100g (3.5oz) low fat soft cheese
1. Preheat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat until smoking slightly.

2. Brush the sardines with a little oil. Cook the sardines, flesh-side down, for 1-2 minutes, before turning over and cooking for another minute. Remove to a plate to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and flake the flesh.

3. Meanwhile, beat the softened butter with cayenne pepper, until it is light and fluffy. Season to taste. Mix in the lemon juice followed by the soft cheese.

4. Add the flaked fish and mix well. This can be done in a food processor if you prefer a finer textured pate.

Serve with lemon wedges and toasted soda bread.
If you are buy whole sardines, make sure you gut them and de-scale them first. To fillet sardines, lay them cavity side down and gently thump along the backbone with a wooden spoon. Turn then over and the whole backbone and ribcage should pull out leaving a perfect double fillet.
South African Sauvignon Blanc ...
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Fried Halibut Steaks Recipe

Fried Halibut Steaks

Halibut is a large meaty flat fish with a delicate flavour and flaky texture. It is excellent pan-fried, steamed, baked or grilled. Because of its mild taste, it is best served simply, as with this straightforward recipe courtesy of Nigel Slater. Fried Halibut Steaks
Serves:  2
Preparation Time:  5 mins
Cooking Time:  10 mins
30g/1oz Flour
2 Halibut steaks, about 2.5cm/1 inch thick
Juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil, for frying
Chopped parsley
Lemon wedges, to serve
1. Scatter a think layer of flour onto a plate. Dip the halibut steaks into the lemon juice, then into the flour on both sides.

2. Fry the fish until firm and cooked right through, about five minutes on each side.

3. Serve hot scattered with parsley and served with large wedges of lemon.
When buying Halibut fillets or steaks, look for glistening pure white, moist flesh that does not have signs of browning, or gaping.
Chablis or Pouilly Fumé ...
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Grilled Lemon Sole With Lemongrass Butter Recipe

Grilled Lemon Sole With Lemongrass Butter

I wonder why Lemon Sole was named as such, as it does not taste of lemon and is a member of the plaice family, not sole. Regardless, lemon sole has a delicate flavour and fine textured flesh. It is quite widely available and is usually good value for money. You can buy the fillets, although purchasing the whole fish on the bone enhances the flavour when cooked. This recipe courtesy of Rick Stein is superb. Grilled Lemon Sole With Lemongrass Butter
Serves:  4
Preparation Time:  10 mins and 1 hour Refrigeration time
Cooking Time:  10 mins
4 Whole lemon sole, cleaned but left on the bone
For the lemongrass butter:
1 Stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and core finely chopped
½ Lime, zest grated finely
2 tsp Lime juice
1cm/½in Root ginger, peeled and chopped very finely
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp Fresh parsley, finely chopped
125g/5oz Salted butter, softened
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. First, make the butter by mixing together all the ingredients, ideally in a food processor. Blend until smooth.

2. Spoon into the centre of a large sheet of cling film and shape in a 4cm/1½in roll. Wrap and chill in the fridge until firm.

3. To cook the lemon sole, trim and score in two to three places depending on the size of the fish. Grill for seven to ten minutes until just cooked.

4. Remove the cling film from the butter and slice in 12 discs and place three on each fish to melt into the flesh.

5. Serve with wilted spinach and new potatoes.
When buying sole, look for red, alive-looking gills and bright skin. The white fillets should glisten and smell fresh of the sea.
German Dry Riesling or Scheurebe ...
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Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary Recipe

Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary

In May and June, spring lamb is at its most tender and succulent, with a fine grain and a more delicate flavour. Spring lamb is fantastic simply roasted with garlic and herbs. This classic recipe is simple and absolutely delicious – leave the fabulous ingredients to speak for themselves. Roast Leg of Spring Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary
Serves:  4 - 6
Preparation Time:  15 mins
Cooking Time:  1 ½ hours
Lamb trimmings and chopped bones from butcher
1 Head of garlic, halved horizontally
1 Leg of lamb bone in, approx 2kg/4½lb
6 Garlic cloves, quartered lengthways
1 Bunch fresh rosemary
15g/½oz Softened butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seasoned vegetables, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

2. In the bottom of a roasting tin scatter the chopped bones, trimmings and garlic head.

3. Make 2.5cm/1in deep incisions in the lamb, into each incision insert the garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs.

4. Rub the butter over the lamb and place the leg on top of the bones, season and place in the oven for 1-1½ hours (15 minutes per 450g/1lb for rare and 20 minutes for medium) turning over half way through.

5. Remove the lamb from the oven, season again and transfer to a tray to rest for at least 10 minutes.

6. To make the gravy, place the roasting pan over a moderate heat to caramelise the lamb juices; this will take 2-3 minutes. Strain of any excess fat. Pour in 350ml/12fl oz cold water, reduce heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve.

Serve the lamb with the gravy and seasonal vegetables - steamed spring greens & honeyed carrots go well.
When buying Spring Lamb, look for firm, pinkish meat with creamy white fat. It can be stored in the fridge for at least 2 or 3 days, depending on the size of the cut – larger cuts do last longer.
Red Bordeaux ...
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Rocket Pesto Recipe

Rocket Pesto

Rocket is a wonderful leaf with a delicious peppery taste. This recipe uses rocket as an alternative to basil for a fresh and vibrant pesto sauce. Fabulous served with pasta or Gnocchi. Rocket Pesto
Serves:  2 - 4
Preparation Time:  10 mins
Cooking Time:  No cooking
3 tbsp Pine kernels, toasted
2-3 Garlic cloves, peeled
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 Large bunch of rocket (about 100g in weight)
100ml Olive oil
Sea salt
55g Parmesan, finely grated
1. Process the pine kernels and garlic until finely chopped.

2. Add the lemon zest, rocket and a third of the olive oil, and process until the required texture is achieved, gradually adding more oil.

3. Stir in the Parmesan by hand and season with salt.

4. Adjust the olive-oil content to reach the desired consistency – this pesto needs to be quite thick.

Serve with pasta or cover and chill for later use.
When buying Rocket, look for fresh vibrant deep green leaves and avoid those that are slimy or yellowing – they will be past their best. Store rocket in the vegetable compartment of your fridge in either a paper bag or roomy/perforated plastic bag, for up to two days.
Gavi di Gavi ...
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Warm Salad of Samphire, Asparagus and Crab Recipe

Warm Salad of Samphire, Asparagus and Crab

Marsh samphire, also known as glasswort or poor mans asparagus, is a fleshy-leaved green plant that grows on seaside marshes. It has a sea-salty flavour and a firm, crisp texture. It can be used fresh in salads or served with fish, simply boiled and tossed in melted butter. The following is another of Rick Steins and is a truly tasty recipe utilising the best of May's seasonal ingredients – Enjoy. Warm Salad of Samphire, Asparagus and Crab
Serves:  4
Preparation Time:  10 - 15 mins
Cooking Time:  5 mins
1 x 1.25 - 1.5kg/2¾ - 3lb Cooked brown crab
350g/12oz Thin asparagus
225g/8oz Samphire, picked over and washed
¼ Garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp/1fl oz/30ml Extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
Juice of ¼ lemon/2tsps
1 tbsp Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt flakes
A few parmesan shavings, to garnish
1. Remove the meat from the crab.

2. Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus where they break naturally and discard them. Cut the asparagus stalks in half. Break off and discard the woody ends of the samphire and break the rest into 2.5cm/1inch pieces.

3. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the samphire and asparagus and cook for one minute. Drain and refresh under cold water to stop them cooking and help set the colour. Drain well once more and then tip into a bowl. Add the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, toss together lightly and season to taste if necessary.

4. Divide the asparagus and samphire between 4 plates and arrange pieces of the white crab meat and a little of the brown meat over the top. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, drizzle over a little more olive oil and season with a few sea salt flakes. Scatter over the parmesan shavings and serve.
Samphire may be quite difficult to source, your best bet is a good fishmongers. Ideally you could pick your own at low tide from shorelines or marshy shallows – don’t forget your wellies.
Viognier from France or Australia ...
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