Today is the Spring Equinox – the first day of Spring. The 19th century poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote: ‘Nothing is so beautiful as Spring.’ To be honest, we’ve had such a mild winter that signs of Spring have been with us for weeks, but oh it’s so nice to know the real thing is here, and it’s definitely something to be celebrated. The days are noticeably getting longer, the sun is starting to warm the days, and spring bulbs are opening out and raising their heads towards the sky.
I decided to cook a Spring supper to welcome the new season. I had some large and rather wonderful chicken supremes in my freezer. My son Jonathan gave them to me a few weeks ago when he bought some chickens in the local farmers’ market and jointed them (see here for step-by-step instructions). I can do the jointing myself, but really it’s so much nicer to have someone to do it for me! I decided to roast the chicken simply with just some seasoning and dried herbs then cook some Spring vegetables to go with it. I thought glazing them would add a nice luxurious touch.
Being Sunday and no farmers’ market locally, I had to ‘cheat’ a bit and go to the supermarket. I found baby carrots, some broad beans and fine asparagus tips. In my fridge I already had some small, sweet new potatoes. I used frozen petit pois, although there were some new season fresh peas to be found. It may be very politically incorrect food wise to say I prefer frozen peas, but they are so delicious and I sometimes find the fresh ones disappointing. I think you need to grow them yourself or have a reliably super-fresh supply.
While my chicken was roasting, I prepared the vegetables. I always skin my broad beans. It’s a bit of a faff it has to be admitted but well worth the effort. I guess – again – if you grow your own you can pick them tiny and tender, but the skins on the bought ones are often tough and bitter. It’s simple enough to boil them briefly, drain them, cool them in cold water, then pop the skins off. You’ll probably find you have more weight in skins than beans but the gorgeous emerald colour of the broad beans and their sweet taste will convince you it was time well spent.
I boiled the other vegetables (except the peas) until just tender, first putting the potatoes into salted water; when they were starting to become tender, I added the carrots. When I thought they were almost tender, I dropped the asparagus tips in for just a few seconds, then drained it all. Next I melted some butter and olive oil in a frying pan. I tipped the potatoes in and shook the pan to coat all sides. When they were starting to colour, I added the carrots. Once they too were starting to brown a bit, I tipped in the asparagus tips. You need to keep shaking the pan and turning the vegetables to brown all sides. Once they were a nice colour I tipped in the broad beans and peas and stirred and cooked a little longer.
Then I poured in a good glug of white wine to cover the bottom of the pan, but not cover the vegetables. I seasoned with salt and a good grinding of black pepper. I also added about a tablespoon of fresh chopped mint and a big pinch of caster sugar to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables. I brought it to a boil, lowered the temperature to medium and simmered steadily, shaking the pan from time to time. As soon as the liquid had almost evaporated away, it was ready.
My chicken was also ready. I cut three large slices from that. It was such a huge piece there’s plenty for another meal tomorrow. I put the slices on a warmed plate with the vegetables.
It was a lovely meal. Cooking the spring vegetables in this way reminded me of the Risotto Primavera I had at Locanda Cipriani last year and the one I cooked once home. Happy Springtime to you!