Flavours of April

Spring is here and the flowers and the blossoms everywhere hint at the warm and beautiful days to come!

April is the season for tender meat and cheeses, as well as vegetables. The lambs are at their best for the gourmet tables, and some cheese like the Brocciu, Chabichou and Brillat-Savarin –  made with the first milk from animals grazing outdoors after the long winter – have more flavour than ever. Several cheeses such as brie or Coulommiers made with the autumn milk are now at their best, and the vegetables…well, it’s all about flavour.

If you want to understand the promise of April, take a bite out of a raw early turnip. As well as appreciating the buttery texture, you can taste the sweetness to come.

Spring mushrooms are always a favourite with chefs and we will have St George’s for a short time so make sure you’re ready for them as they’ll be gone before you know it. It’s also the time for the South African cep and morels are now in full season. Morels will bring a foraging touch to your menu – as will wild garlic and leeks, sea aster and other foraged leaves and vegetables, all of which provide a fresh, density of flavour to your dishes. Sorrel is just sprouting and has a strong lemon taste that goes brilliantly with fish. The first chervil that grows outdoors also has a crisp flavour because all of its essential oils are strongest just before it blossoms.

The first peas are now available as are broad beans, asparagus, dandelions and spinach – they all give us those nutrients and greens we need to boost our energy. Broad beans have a slightly bitter and nutty taste and so are the perfect match for a very good butter and a piece of bread; green dandelions make a fantastic salad with hot potatoes and a little bit of grilled bacon and vinaigrette. The early potatoes from Jersey, Ile de Ré or Noirmoutier fill all our expectations about new potatoes too.

After spending all winter in water, watercress grows more than ever with the temperature rising throughout spring – it’s the perfect product to go with any grilled meat or just a simple watercress soup. Watercress remains one of the best vegetables to accompany almost any meal.

Baby leaves from France  are now at their best for the perfect mesclun mix – choose from baby herbs, oriental leaves or single options including mizuna, red mizuna, bulls blood, red chard, yellow chard, mustard, red mustard frill, salsola, arroche, purslane, mini mesclun and mini coriander. We love the way these leaves are grown. The climate coupled with the amazing soil results in consistency of product. The leaves grow between 17-26 days – faster than weeds so no need to spray weedkillers either.

For fruit, by mid-March rhubarb is in full production and with April’s new strawberries – the French gariguette and raspberries  – the French tulameen, large, fragrant and juicy –  we have the perfect match for tons of desserts. A simple rhubarb crumble can take you back to your childhood and the density of the flavour and the subtle balance of bitterness and sweetness makes us very proud of this fascinating product. Once you’ve tasted Yorkshire rhubarb you cannot imagine spending April without this perfect ingredient again.

Asparagus from France is now white and crispy with a little bitterness and goes perfectly with a simple vinaigrette. The French asparagus has a fantastic density of flavours but this can be beaten by the English-grown asparagus with its fresh, green taste that develops further once cooked. The asparagus, white or green makes you believe that April is the real start of spring.

April is exciting because it makes us rethink our way of eating and reminds us of why we like the changes that the seasons bring.