Seasonal produce – simply the best for healthy dining
Food and wine
The season is alive and bursting, full of growing from the hot spell last week. And all around the country gardens are bursting with fresh veggies and new growth.
The key to seasonality is to know that something has a particular life span and when is the best time to enjoy it.
We have just finished serving bucket loads of fresh, wild garlic soup in Cabots Source that went down a treat with customers. I gathered a big sack full of it while visiting in Louisburgh, and the distinctive green tang and flavour of the beautiful looking wild produce reminded me of the free wonders of nature.
We were then kindly delivered a bunch of watercress from Joe Kelly in Kiltimagh. It came into season last month and has a delicious peppery taste to it. Chef Peter made it into a simple pesto by mixing it with olive oil, garlic and seasoning. We served it in the restaurant with fresh grilled Hake. (If you are a producer of local foods, or you know someone who is, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know about your news and produce).
Broad beans are coming! They’re best from the end of May through to mid-July. Early on, a great joy is to cook the whole broad bean with beans inside, eating the soft pod as well. Later on in the season, they get stringy and the pods can’t be eaten, but for this magical time they are a joy.
Fresh garden peas are in season from early June until late July. Boil briefly, add a knob of butter and season with black pepper, or crush them lightly with a fork before serving alongside grilled fish fillets or slices of boiled ham hock. Pea and mint soup has been a favourite of ours at Cabots Source.
Mountains of fresh, seasonal rhubarb were around in the shops last month, and it is still not too late to get your hands on a rich, tasty treat full of vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, manganese and potassium.
Summer is very much about fruits, and in the restaurant we now notice a move away from big chocolate desserts to lighter, fresher fruit desserts. Here is one of the most simple, easiest desserts known to mankind. Fresh and zesty – perfect after a meal. I like all my recipes to be simple, relatively quick, and always easy (unlike yours truly). It’s that KISS (‘Keep It Simple, Silly’) method again…
> 200ml/7fl oz cream
> 1½tbsp milk
> 30g/1oz icing sugar
> ½ lemon, juice only
> 1 lemon slice, to garnish
> Whip the cream to a thick pouring mixture
> Mix together the cream, milk, sugar and lemon juice in a clean bowl, then spoon the mixture into a tall dessert glass. Garnish with the lemon slice and place in the fridge to chill.
A wine to go with your lemon posset: Grauzan Sauvignon Blanc, €12.99.
Some wine with that?
Dear wine lovers, this week spare a thought for the other side of wine that you don’t often get to see. ’Tis not the fancy, colourful side of wines, their tasting or the advertising that we see… ’Tis the humble vine plant that produces the grapes.
Just like farming, you grow your crop with the variable climatic, soil and local conditions, and harvest it as best you can. Let’s look a little at the life-cycle of the resilient vine.
February is the month for pruning back dead growth after the deadness of winter that all gardeners will be familiar with. The challenge at this time is for the farmer to identify two spurs on the vine that will lead to future growth. The vine is cut back and a ‘T’ shaped spur is produced, from which buds will emerge.
March, then, is the time of year for de-budding, when the farmer cuts back on the number of buds on a vine. At this point, the farmer decides whether to produce a greater volume of juice and wine from the vines, albeit at perhaps a lesser concentration, or produce a lesser yield but higher concentration.
Seven or eight buds will emerge from each spur and these shoots will grow upwards over the trellises to develop bunches of fruit. The vines and farmer rely on bees and insects for the pollination of flowers bringing into sharp relief the importance played by bees and insects in all crop pollination.
An average 100-day growing cycle follows from bud flowering to harvesting. Around this time, spraying will commence to protect the crop.
In autumn, the farmer will check the unique balance of fruit and sugar within the grapes before harvesting the crop.
These vines, then, often destined for some of the grandest wines in the world, have humble beginnings marked out in the pure and simple earth of the world. Enjoy your wines and remember where they came from.