Each season has a specific climate, and thus, specific foods go in and out of season depending on when they grow best. This is the reason strawberries are watery in December, and peaches are expensive unless you buy them in the summer. It’s easier to buy seasonal ingredients locally, and they’ll taste better and cost less when in season. This win-win-win situation is too good to pass up, and just a quick bit of research can show which foods are in season each month.
For April, I’ll highlight five ingredients that have just come into season, and show you three quick ways to prepare each one. The recipes below are relatively simple, and, if you feel uncomfortable following loose recipes, full versions of similar recipes with more exact quantities, cooking times and more detail can be found online easily.
The first in-season food I want to talk about for April is watercress. It’s a peppery, small-leaf green that has a unique bite; watercress is best complemented by rich flavours, or contrasted with acidity.
3 Watercress Recipes:
Egg and Cress Sandwich with Lemon:
Use a spoonful of mayonnaise to bind a few chopped hard-boiled eggs together, and then spread the egg-mayonnaise mixture onto buttered bread. Top with washed and dried watercress, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Watercress and Orange Salad with Dijon Dressing:
Peel an orange or two with a paring knife, and collect the juice that drips off. Mix the juice with olive oil, salt, pepper and a spoonful of Dijon mustard. Toss the segments of the peeled orange and sprigs of watercress in this quick, delicious dressing.
Watercress and Pea Soup:
Cook down chopped onions in oil, salt, and pepper; add cubed peeled potatoes and chopped celery. Cook until soft, and then add vegetable stock, fresh peas, and watercress leaves. Simmer until the peas are cooked and the watercress is wilted. Then move the mixture to a blender; blend until smooth. Add a pinch of chopped mint, a few spoonfuls of double cream and the zest of one lemon.
The second April ingredient is lamb: a strong meat —similar to mutton or beef— that can be incredibly tender and fatty. It’s best cooked with potatoes, squash, or a spice blend that cuts its natural fattiness.
3 Lamb Recipes:
Baked Aubergine with Walnut and Lamb Sauce:
Sauté a chopped red onion in oil with cumin, oregano, and garlic until soft; then add a cup of chopped walnuts and stir. Once the walnuts are toasty, add ground lamb and cook until browned. Then add a can of tomatoes and let the mixture simmer for half an hour, adjusting spices as needed. Serve over slices of aubergine that have been brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper and baked until the skin wrinkles.
Roast Leg of Lamb:
Marinate the leg in a mixture of salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon zest, crushed garlic and chopped rosemary for a few hours, and then roast it in a 200C oven for 70-90 minutes. Cover the pan in tinfoil. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes before serving; this traps the juices inside. Leg of lamb is traditionally served with mint sauce, a simple blended mixture of mint leaves, salt, pepper, sugar and wine vinegar.
2 Sides to Accompany Lamb:
(1) Steamed peas with butter, pepper and chopped mint are a classic accompaniment to roast lamb. (2) Also try roasting sliced courgette and tomato in salt, pepper and oil until soft.
Our third April ingredient is the radish. Crisp, peppery and delightfully crunchy, radishes can range from bitter to sweet depending on variety. Oddly well suited to bread-and-butter flavors, they also play nicely with vinegar and citrus.
3 Radish Recipes:
Radish and Salted Butter Crostini:
Brush slices of French baguette with olive oil and broil in the oven until light brown. Spread butter on the toasted bread, sprinkle with salt, and top with a slice or two of radish.
Radish, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Lime and Mint:
Cube equal amounts of radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers (with the seeds removed). Then toss in a mixture of chopped mint, vegetable oil, lime juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
Quick Radish Pickles:
Quarter radishes and toss in salt. Let radishes soak in a mix of rice vinegar, sugar and minced ginger that has been cooked down and chilled. Leave to pickle for a minimum of two hours in the refrigerator.
Our fourth showcased ingredient, prawns, has a delicate seafood flavor that can be easily enhanced with curries, citrus, and garlic butter. Nearly every cuisine worldwide has a take on prawns.
3 Prawn Recipes:
Linguine with Prawns in White Wine and Lemon:
Toss al dente linguine with prawns that have been sautéed in white wine, lemon juice, garlic and a dash of cream with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with chopped parsley.
Cajun Prawn Skewers:
Marinate prawns in garlic powder, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt, paprika and vegetable oil for a few hours, then skewer and grill or sauté them until they’re browned. Serve over rice and finish with a squeeze of lemon.
Tomato and Coconut Prawn Curry:
Simmer a can of tomatoes in a saucepan with a half cup of coconut milk, minced garlic, and a spoonful or two of red curry paste until bubbling. Then, add prawns and cook on medium heat until the prawns are done and the sauce thickens to about the consistence of ketchup.
Our final ingredient, Spinach, is a salty, slightly bitter green. Spinach is just as good cooked as it is fresh. Sweet and acidic flavors both complement the saltiness, and cooked down, it can be incredibly rich.
3 Spinach Recipes:
Spinach and Nutmeg Soup:
Make a soup base with yellow onion, garlic, cubed potato, salt, pepper and olive oil. Sauté. Once the potatoes are tender, add spinach, vegetable broth, lemon juice, and cream. Simmer until the spinach is wilted. Blend the soup to give it a smooth texture, and serve topped with double cream and lemon zest.
3 Variations on a Spinach Salad:
Top a bed of washed and dried spinach with any one of the following combinations: (1) Baked salmon, Satsuma segments, and dried cranberries with rice vinegar and oil dressing; (2) Sliced strawberries, crumbled goat cheese and pecan halves with balsamic vinegar; (3) Sliced avocado, sliced mango, lime juice and Dijon mustard.
Spinach and Mushrooms in Garlic Butter:
Sauté half a chopped yellow onion in butter with salt and pepper and a clove or two of crushed garlic in a small pot. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to give off liquid. Use the mushroom liquid to steam the spinach, covering the pot for a minute or two, then stirring quickly to coat the spinach in the garlic butter.”
That’s all for April. Happy cooking!