WSpring greens roasted the other day: purple striped onions, thickly sliced and seasoned with coriander and cumin seeds, mixed with skinny carrots and fresh chili peppers, served over a pile of brown lentils that I had simmered in vegetable broth .
The next day, one of those bright, fizzy spring mornings with an underlying hint of winter, the same ingredients were made into a hearty soup. The fresh chilies were swapped for dry to introduce a smoky base note, and the lentils were blended together to give it an earthy texture. Same ingredients, different result.
We remind ourselves that it was spring with a scattering of tiny green leaves: radish, mustard, and young leaves. The sprouted seeds would have been perfect too.
I like the first days that can be winter or spring, depending on the mood. They refresh and inspire. But they can also ruin dinner plans, which is why I try to choose recipes designed to be as fluid as the weather.
Usually those like an asparagus pilau that, with a little adjustment and switching from long grain rice to short grain, can be turned into a cool weather risotto. Or a plate of fried gnocchi with crisp spring greens (radish, peas, lima beans) that can be quickly reconsidered as a gratin with ribs, the dumplings dipped in a layer of cream, lima beans and Parmesan sauce.
The other day I brought out a forgotten old pudding, a pudding queen with her layer of raspberry jam and custard stuffed with crumbs. Sweet but oh so glorious. As good as it was, it occurred to me that it might be a little more refreshing and seasonal if I dipped the orange zest into the custard and swapped the raspberry jam for a bright lemon curd. Still sweet, it had a lightness, and everything suddenly felt in tune with the time of year. It has turned out to be a guardian.
Spiced carrot soup
The heat of the spices. the freshness of the herbs. For 4 people
onions 1 half
olive oil 2 tablespoons
Garlic 1 tooth
ground cumin ½ teaspoon
ground coriander 1 tsp
chili flakes a large pinch
Vegetables soup 1 liter
small orange lentils 100 grams
bay leaves two
cumin seeds 2 teaspoons
micro greens 2 handfuls
herb leaves, mint, parsley 2 handfuls
olive oil 2 tablespoons
Peel and chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a wide, deep saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion. Peel and thinly slice the garlic, then add it to the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes until it begins to soften but has not colored.
Trim carrots, peel if necessary, then coarsely chop. Stir the ground cumin, cilantro, and chili flakes into the softened onions, then add the carrots and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Heat the broth, pour it into the saucepan, add the lentils, a little salt and the bay leaves and bring to a boil.
When the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and partially cover with a lid. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until carrots and lentils are soft to the touch. Serve in a blender little by little and reduce to a thick puree. Check the seasoning, you may need some salt and black pepper. Pour the soup back into the pan and reheat.
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet for a minute or two until fragrant, then pour into a small bowl. Collect the microgreens and herbs from their stems and add them to the cumin seeds. Pour over the olive oil. Serve the soup in bowls and sprinkle the top with toasted seeds and herbs.
San Clemente queen of puddings
Usually, you would use commercially made good quality lemon curd for this, but others will work well too, like orange or passion fruit. It’s worth letting the pudding sit for a while, say 15 minutes, before you drink it. For 6
For the custard:
soft white bread 90g
Orange 1, small
powdered sugar 75g
Milk 400 ml
eggs yolks 3
lemon or orange curd 8 tablespoons
For the meringue:
egg whites 3
powdered sugar 180g
You will also need a baking dish to hold about 1.5 liters.
Set oven to 160C / gas mark 3. Reduce bread to fine crumbs in food processor. Grate the zest of the orange and lemon; mix with the 75 g of powdered sugar. Stir everything together and set aside.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring almost to a boil. Separate the eggs by putting the whites in a large bowl. Beat the yolks with a small whisk, then, continuing to beat, pour in the milk and mix. Add the citrus-scented crumbs, then pour into a 1.5-liter baking dish and let rest for 15 minutes.
Raise the heat to 200C / gas mark 6. Bake the pastry cream for 25 minutes until slightly firm, then remove from the oven and set the heat to 180C / gas mark 4. Spread the curd gently over the pastry cream. Whisk in the egg whites and sugar until thickened (they should form stiff peaks), then place over the pudding. Return to the oven for about 15 more minutes until the peak of the meringue is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism