Well what a wet start to the month it seems it has been raining for the most of April and the start of May so officially we have a drought and here in London we have city wide hosepipe bans, but never mind the rain is doing some good somewhere!
As the weather gets warmer in May, and exquisite British produce can be found in plenty especially large, juicy spears of asparagus which are at their very best and cheap too, when I say asparagus I mean proper English asparagus, not that stuff from Peru or America, which is a bit wishy-washy not that I have anything against overseas asparagus but English is something special and I like the short period in which we can get it, and Jersey royals the new potatoes with attitude are mouth-watering sprinkled with sea salt flakes, black pepper and golden jersey butter melted and poured over them.
For us (Maureen and meself) May is the start of our summer and as the days get longer and warmer we look forward to barbeques, picnics and lunches in the garden and the parks here in London, we always look forward to the new season asparagus delicious served cold with a nice tasty vinaigrette, we take pleasure in the delicate and unsophisticated texture of sea trout lightly poached in white wine with herbs or pan-fried with butter, lemon and capers we also look forward to the new season parsley, carrots, raspberries and the first of the cherries.
I remember when we were at The Whitewell Hotel, The Willow Tree Restaurant and The Great Tree Hotel we always competed with other hotels and restaurants who would be the first to serve the first of British asparagus, strawberries and Jersey royal potatoes, at Whitewell we almost always won and the same can be said for the Willow Tree but down in Devon it was always a real competition with Gidleigh Park and I am glum to say they won more than we did, however it is still always nice to get the first of this seasons new fruit and veg with such glorious flavours.
May is indisputably the time for new vegetables, and at this time there are so many that get going at the end of April that are either just coming into season or are in full swing it seems we are bursting at the seams with seasonal luxury this month so you must try to mix and match sumptuous asparagus, tender peas and spicy watercress to make mouth-watering salads and soups.
There are not surprisingly, other vegetables that we can look forward to see this month; New Season Carrots, Mint, Wild Mushrooms, Nettles, Parsley, Radishes, Rocket, Samphire, Sorrel, Spinach and Watercress are all on offer outdoor grown salad leaves of all types come along, as do Radishes, Broad Beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Courgettes, all start to appear this month too, English tomatoes will start to become quite evident and get better as May fades into June.
The summer vegetables will be starting but the British fruit will still be a little limited, but the first of the strawberries will be appearing. We will also begin to find that the choice of meat and fish becoming more plentiful and that the farmhouse cheeses are at their best.
Fish and Seafood at Its Best This Month
May has been a bit of a challenge what with strong winds at the beginning of the month and now more winds this week netting and landing the catch has become a bit more difficult of a task for the day boats and the same can be said for Scotland joyfully, what’s being landed is truly top-quality produce.
Hake is plentiful and paying a visit to the Ajax Fishing boat will let you know just how they are doing.
Wild Black Bream is being landed along the South coast and as I try to tell everyone this is much, much better than the farmed bream on offer by some fishmongers and supermarkets, deal with it like bass and you will not be let down
There is some superb fresh fish about so keep a lookout for Sea bass, Turbot and Monkfish, Salmon, Sea Trout, River Trout are at their best, Dover sole and Lobster are coming back after their low season, and Cornish crab and other shellfish are simply superb.
Line-Caught Mackerel is luscious, tasty, and plentiful right now, we are seeing quite good sized fish, which makes for some superb dishes whether you’re eating at home with your family or cooking for a few friends.
The first sardines should soon be appearing at the fishmongers (for those in Pimlico look at the Cornish Chins) so get the barbecue out and start grilling, even though they have always been popular with the Spanish and Portuguese they have never really caught on in this country. We all eat them quite cheerfully while on holiday but it seems when we get back to our own patch, if they do not come in tins then we don’t seem to want to know them, it’s a shame really as when they are fresh they are very yummy. Drizzled with a good quality olive oil and grilled till the skin turns crispy, served with a salad of tossed leaves with a hint of lemon juice and some homemade crusty bread what could be better?
May is great for buying Brown Crab, Haddock, Lemon Sole, Langoustines, Sardines, Sea Bass, and Sea Trout.
A new online consumer guide to sustainable seafood has been launched today. The Good Fish Guide at www.goodfishguide.org.uk gives straightforward advice and cooking recipe ideas to make buying sustainable and varied seafood much simpler. The MCS Pocket Good Fish Guide has also been updated and now includes a credit card-sized guide to buying fish including top buying tips and questions to ask the fishmonger or at the fish counter.
Fruit at It’s Best This Month
British Fruit coming in now are Strawberries from Kent, Devon, and Cornwall May customarily sees the beginning of the English strawberry season; we have always related them with much later in the year more like late June, July and August but we now get tasty early strawberries, another fruit that surprises me at this time of year is the cherry, imported of course but once these and strawberries appear in the shops then you instinctively know summer is just around the corner.
Late May also sees the first flush of summer berries, gooseberries, red currants, black currants and probably even raspberries, now that’s something to look forward to isn’t it?
Meat, Poultry and Game at Its Best This Month
All the regular visitors are available however it is the new season lamb you want to keep a lookout for and the outdoor reared pork, Welsh Black Beef is another that is beginning to show it on the butchers slab more and more.
Vegetables at Their Best This Month
Asparagus, spinach, radishes, spring greens and purple sprouting broccoli, cucumbers, primo cabbages and cauliflowers.
Vegetables just appearing are: Main crop carrots, new potatoes especially Jersey Royals, and those other tasty varieties such as those from Pembrokeshire, and Anglesey, new season turnips, young tender broad beans and tender sweet cucumbers, plus that tasty peppery arugula/rocket. It is probably your last chance to buy Leeks, parsnips and kale.
And don’t forget the herbs basil, chervil, chives; dill, elderflower, mint, nasturtium, parsley (curly), parsley (flat-leaf), and sorrel are all now becoming widely available.
Dates for Your Diary
- 19 May – 27 July, Torch Relay – the torch will be passed around every part of Britain and will never be more than 5 miles away from 80 per cent of the population. To see when the torch is coming near you [click here].
- 22 May, RHS Chelsea Flower Show The world’s largest flower show returns to London for a horticultural festival offering modern, inventive gardens and trade stands offering new products for RHS members and the public alike
- 2 June – 5 June 2012: Diamond Jubilee extended weekend.
- 27 July – 12 August 2012: British Food Fortnight (the same dates as the Olympic Games).
- 3 July – 8 July, RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, come and visit the stunningly creative gardens and floral displays at the world’s largest annual flower show. There will be artisan crafts and home-wares as well as gifts for the green-fingered in the Country Living Pavilion.
Click here for details of the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show
- The Olympiad concludes with the London Festival 2012, which runs from 21 June to 9 September
- Country Living Christmas Fair London – 7 to 11 November 2012
Come and meet more than 400 exhibitors for an inspirational shopping experience, in London’s Business Design Centre, in Islington. All you need to make the perfect country Christmas. Tickets available from June 2012. Click here for details
LOCAL SHOPPING, PIMLICO, WESTMINSTER, VICTORIA
Address: Tachbrook Street, SW1
Trading hours: Monday to Saturday: 8am to 6pm
Nearest tube: Victoria or Pimlico
Bus: 2, 24, 36, 185, 436
Open every day except Sunday, the number of stalls in this ancient street market increases as the week moves forwards, the market offers a wide array of goods from home furnishings and gardening equipment, to fruit and veg, fresh meat, fish, shellfish, bread and cakes.
Managed by Westminster Artisans Ltd on behalf of Westminster Council it is set to be a community hub thanks to its dynamic varied collection of stalls with scrumptious international hot food the paella is superb, fresh food, chocolate, cheese, olive oil, bread, funky fashion, and lots more.
Discover different stalls on different days it is an energetic market and we just love buying our fresh food at the market, fruit, vegetables, fish, and shellfish and this market is very close to us, and close enough to other shops such as; Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Rippon Cheese and some wonderful delis such as the Spanish Art Of Tapas, there are Italian delis, and Portuguese were we can pick up anything else for our cooking sessions.
It is also a superb lunch destination with loads of small specialist restaurants around and in the market itself something marvellous has happened it started last year when the market was refurbished and placed under the management of Westminster Artisans Ltd, Pimlico has welcomed the street food transformation and now you can by all the street food your heart desires from falafel to paella
Below you will see just what some of the stalls have to offer, we do hope to increase our list during the coming months and if you are a stallholder please email us with your details we welcome all the information we can get.
LOCAL CARBOOT SALE, CAPITAL CARBOOT,
PIMLICO ACADEMY, CHICHESTER STREET ENTRANCE, LUPUS STREET, LONDON, SW1V 3AT
Central London’s only indoor and outdoor all year round carboot sale, as seen in Timeout, Elle, I-D, Le Cool, and Emerald Street
Capital Carboot Sale runs every Sunday (except Easter, Christmas and New Year, please check availability during these times). Indoor stall holders should arrive at 9:30am if coming in a vehicle to unload. Unloading vehicles will not be allowed on site after 10:00am, outdoor stall holders without vehicles should arrive 10:15am, outdoor stall holders with vehicles to remain in the sale should arrive 10:45am. Early bird buyers entry is 10:15am (£5), Public entry is 11:30am until 3:30pm (£1).
You can find them at The Pimlico Academy, Lupus Street (Please use the Chichester Street entrance) Pimlico, SW1V 3AT.
The nearest tubes and trains are Pimlico (2 minutes walk) and Victoria (5 minutes walk), and on bus routes 360, C10, 24, 2, 36, 185, 436
You can book a stall at http://www.capitalcarboot.com/ or 0845 0943 871
Capital Carboot strongly advises buyers to use public transport when attending; parking is limited in the surrounding areas and a priority for local residents.
If you like to find good genuine bargains then you have to head to Pimlico for the best of car boot sales, Capital Carboot is attracting a young crowd, several selling vintage fashion and collectables so get there early to bag the best deals. This London based car boot sale is so much better than your average London car boot sale, it was set up last year by ex-stylist and personal shopper Faye Marriott and the happening is further encouraged with Twitter and Facebook, an element not often found with carboot events, this means that there is a much younger gathering of people but don’t worry there is still plenty for the more traditional car-booters and there has been sightings of celebrities searching for that special bargain.
Oh if you like the carboot on Facebook entry for buyers is free of charge check on Facebook for the password.
You can now buy fresh fruit and veg here
Our Local Greengrocer
John Bussey’s Stall on Tachbrook Street Market
They only buy British produce when possible and in season, the family have had a stall on the market for 80 years now and they believe very strongly in supplying the best quality produce that is in season and at its best, they always seem to be the first to obtain the great British produce such as jersey royal potatoes, British asparagus, British soft fruits, when visiting look out for good sprouts, cauliflowers, leeks and cox’s apples; English berries and lettuce are available in season.
In fact they have all the fruit, veg and herbs you might want and so much better than the local supermarket’s offerings.
there were Apples English Braeburns and Bramleys, Artichokes, British Asparagus, English Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Courgettes, English King Edward Potatoes, Jersey Royal Potatoes, Fennel, Field Mushrooms, Leeks, Mache (Lambs Lettuce), Parsnips, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radish, Watercress, you can plainly see that all of what was available was in first-rate condition. He has also obtained some of the finest tasting British Strawberries and Raspberries we have had in a long time
Vegetable/Fruit/Herb of the Week
We like Spinach especially baby spinach which we use in our spring salads and I often have smoked haddock served on a bed of wilted spinach with a poached egg.
Bright with colour, taste and with lots of lovely vitamins, perfect young spinach leaves are to be had right now in the months of March, April, May and June. Spinach is available all year round, but the freshest, most tender spinach is mainly simply obtainable in the spring.
The unique, slightly iron flavour of spinach makes it something of a ‘love it or hate it’ food
Spinach is renowned for its nutritional virtues, and while it does contain high levels of iron and calcium, the occurrence of oxalic acid binds these minerals in a way that cannot be absorbed by the body, so you can pretty much forget the iron and calcium content in spinach but still Spinach is great for you Vitamins A and C are here in considerable amounts, as are several antioxidants and folic acid.
As you know Spinach has a high water content and so it shrinks to approximately a quarter of its size when cooked so take into consideration that you will need to buy lots of it, pick dark green, thin stemmed leaves with no signs of wilting or yellowing.
Keep it in a plastic bag in the salad/vegetable drawer of the fridge for three to four days
Preparing and Cooking Spinach
Give the leaves a good wash in a sinkful of tepid water to get rid of any traces of sand, dirt or grit (if bought from a farmers’ market) or those nasty sprayed on chemicals (if bought from a supermarket), change the water two or three times, drain, or do what we do dry it in a salad spinner and if the leaves are to be eaten raw cut out those thick stems.
When cooking Spinach you can just steam it with just the water clinging to the leaves after washing, give it 5 to 10 minutes in a large saucepan.
Sautéing and microwaving are also good cooking methods as is just wilting it for a salad we like to use hot bacon fat for spinach and bacon salad.
Raw spinach is superb in salads and, as with watercress; it has a natural empathy with bacon.
Spinach also teams up beautifully with smoked haddock and with cheese, particularly feta.
In French cuisine, the term “à la Florentine” indicates dishes featuring spinach.
Our Local Butcher, Freemans (Butchers) 117 Lupus Street
Trading Hours: Open: Mon to Sat 7.30am – 5.30pm Closed: Sun and Bank holidays
John Freeman owner of Freemans butchers supply high quality meat to the local residents of Pimlico and Westminster indeed people travel from all over London to purchase their meat from this traditional high street butcher.
He says that they are passionate about their product and are committed to ensuring quality meat at the best possible price; we aim for excellence with the right product, right price, and right quality 100% of the time.
Their service level quality is kept up by constant staff development, and through customer feedback.
John constantly has superb meat and can get almost anything you want if given enough notice
Available all year round.
Best British Season Is; May, June, September, October, November
Cheap imported lamb from New Zealand may be available all year round, but in season, British lamb is hard to beat.
In May and June, lamb is at its most tender but as the season progresses the flavour develops.
Spring lamb is fantastic for roasting simply with garlic and herbs; Autumn lamb is great when given a spicier, more adventurous treatment.
Lamb is produced just about everywhere in Britain, and even though a good number of people believe the Welsh new season lamb is the best, I think that new season lamb from the Fylde and Morecambe Bay is superior.
We get hold of our lamb and mutton from two or three suppliers and all of them know exactly where their lamb comes from and they continuously source from farmers where good animal welfare is a matter of principle and a way of life for the farmer.
British lamb and mutton is produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world no growth-promoting hormones are fed to sheep in the United Kingdom and any antibiotics are administered only under veterinary direction.
Britain’s sheep industry is the envy of the world breeding from livestock and genetics from our native breeds are much sought after by farmers in other countries.
British lamb and mutton travels less far from farm to shop so regardless of how carbon footprints are calculated it self-evidently has a lower carbon footprint.
Choosing British lamb and mutton means supporting British farmers whose work helps to keep the British countryside the way we want it to be, no sheep essentially means no countryside
Buying Lamb and Mutton
Big supermarkets will source lamb from a number of different farms. Buying lamb from a good butcher’s shop or farmers’ market will give you the opportunity to ask about the source of the lamb, and then buy the same quality produce again if you like it. Look for firm, pinkish meat with creamy white fat.
Storing Lamb and Mutton
Lamb can be kept in the fridge for at least a couple of days – the larger the cut the longer the meat will keep. Freezing tends to have a drying effect on meat and so is best used for cuts that will be slow cooked in stews or casseroles, rather than dry-heat methods (grilling, roasting, frying).
Preparing and Cooking Lamb and Mutton
The cooking method will be dependent on the cut and recipe. Generally lamb benefits from slightly slower cooking with heat that is more moderate than you would use for beef.
Trim excess external fat (or ask your butcher to do this) before use. Lamb cooked using dry-heat methods will be more flavourful if served slightly pink. Stews and casseroles will benefit from slow-cooking until no pink remains. When roasting larger cuts, allow the meat to stand for at least 15 minutes after cooking.
Our Local Fishmonger, Jonathan Norris
You can find them at:
Victoria Park, 207 Victoria Park Road, E9 7JN
Telephone: 0208 525 8999
And on Tachbrook Street Market, Pitch 1317, Pimlico, London SW1
Telephone: 0779 907 3060
Opening Hours; Thurs – 8am – 5.30pm, Fri – 8am – 5.30pm, Sat – 8am – 5.30pm
Website: Jonathan Norris of Pimlico
Just take a meander through our local market on Tachbrook Street, and eventually you will come across our favourite fishmonger “Jonathan Norris” you will see what he has on display (and what a display) there is all you might ever want from your fishmonger for sale at a extremely affordable prices as well as other fish and shellfish that you don’t normally see on a market stall and furthermore you will notice that the fish is caught from around the UK’s own shores with Scotland and Cornwall dominant.
Jon is so friendly and a real character and when you speak to him you notice at once that he’s enthusiastic about all things fish, and when you ask him about the fish he has available you become aware that from his response that there’s nothing he and his people don’t know about the produce they sell.
The fish is always in the best of condition, and as far as I can see always from sustainable sources. He explained to me after I asked him about it that “we take environmental issues very seriously and are continually striving to reduce the negative impact on our beautiful world wherever possible”. I got the feeling that he could even tell you what boat the catch came from.
This week Jon’s display was as usual a stunning menu of all the best the sea offers, his Wild Black Bream was simply the best we have seen in a long time and Brown Crab, Haddock, Lemon Sole, Langoustines, Sardines, Sea Bass, and Sea Trout along with Sea Urchins, live Lobster, Brill and Dover Soles made it very difficult for us to make a choice.
There was Cornish Octopus, Plaice from Scotland so plump and sweet, and we chose for our meal this week some beautiful Cornish Whiting so simple to cook with just a little olive oil and butter cooked in the pan seasoned with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and the served with those fantastic Jersey Royals and divine English asparagus.
His best fish today was the Wild Salmon caught in the River Esk just superb
We also bought a superb brown crab so we could make some really tasty sandwiches for lunch.
Catch of the Day, Wild Salmon
In The Balcony Garden
Nothing doing on the balcony, 1st of June is the day set for when they come along to put our new windows in, it maybe that we will get some salads and herbs in this year?
Recipes for The Month
Roasted Leg of Spring Lamb with Sage and Thyme
Sprigs of sage and thyme (you could use rosemary) are inserted into slits in the meat and then you just roast it in the oven what could be easier.
What a glorious dish, more or less identical to the one Maureen and I used to have at the Bakery Restaurant on the Greek island of Spetses (This restaurant is on the top floor above one of the island’s more popular patisseries).
We tried it at Wilton Lodge for a dinner party, which was a triumph, so much, so that in the winter/spring of 1992 at Norwood West, Palm Springs it became a great favourite.
Serves / Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Prep-Time: 12 minutes
Cook-Time: 120 minutes
You Will Need
1 leg of lamb, 3 kilos with the bone in (1 pound of uncooked weight per person)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sea salt, we use the sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
8 fresh sprigs of sage (3 to 4 inches)
8 fresh sprigs of thyme (3 to 4 inches)
Pre-heat oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gasmark 5.
Season the lamb with the salt and freshly ground black pepper, then rub with the olive oil.
Score the meat lengthways with four parallel slits, on the top and bottom of the leg.
Place a sprig of sage and a sprig of thyme in each cut, then place the lamb into to a roasting pan; we sometimes place some vegetables and potatoes underneath the lamb cover lightly with foil and cook for 30 minutes per 450 grams / per pound.
If you like to serve your lamb quite pink, give it 30 minutes less cooking time, and make sure you baste the lamb at least 3 times while it is cooking.
About 20 minutes before done, remove the foil if the meat hasn’t browned sufficiently.
To tell if the lamb is cooked to your fancy, slot in a skewer right into the centre of the joint, remove it, and then push the flat of the skewer against the meat and as the juices runs out, you will see to what extent the meat is cooked.
The pinker the juices, the rarer the meat, when it is cooked as you like it, remove it to a carving board and keep it in a warm place to rest for 30 minutes.
Serve with new season vegetables and Jersey Royal potatoes and Enjoy!
Blackened Cajun Salmon
Succulent salmon cooked the Cajun way with oodles of flavour and colour a real pleasure to serve to family and guests.
We love Cajun food and try to make it as authentic as we can, this was a dish we had at the Bayou Seafood Grille in Rancho Mirage and as I was making my notes at the table the chef came out with the recipe already written out for me, I’ve got to say that the food at the Bayou Seafood Grill is superb.
Serves / Makes: 4 servings
Prep-Time: 15 minutes
Cook-Time: 25 minutes
You Will Need
3 tablespoons, Cajun seasoning, see my recipe on MyDish
4, salmon steaks, or fillets about 180 grams each
For the Salsa
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 clove, garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 x 400 gram tin, chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons, freshly chopped coriander
Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning on a plate; dip the salmon into the seasoning to coat both sides, set to one side.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan and fry the onion, chilli and garlic for about 5 minutes until softened, stir in the chilli powder, tomatoes and chopped coriander, cook gently for 10 minutes or so until the salsa has thickened and reduced season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Brush a griddle pan with the remaining oil, heat until smoking and cook the salmon for 3 to 4 minutes each side until golden and cooked.
Serve and Enjoy, we like it with sautéed potatoes and a mixed salad!
Most new cooks think blackened means burned blackened actually refers to the spices becoming slightly charred and giving the cut of fish this smoky and spicy flavouring If you don’t have a griddle pan use a frying pan.
Cajun Food originates from the French speaking Acadian or “Cajun” immigrants in the Acadiana region of Louisiana, USA.
It is often called a country fare and locally grown food dominates with simple preparations. An authentic Cajun food meal is usually a three-pot affair, with the first pot being the main dish, the second to steamed rice, skillet cornbread, or some other grain dish, and the third containing whatever vegetable is plentiful for that years crop.
Cajun Food/Cuisine was developed out of necessity, the Acadian refugees, farmers reduced to nothing by the British expulsion, had to learn to live off the swampy land they lived in and quickly adapted to the French rustic cuisine with locally grown foods such as rice, crawfish (craw daddy’s), and sugar cane.
The aromatic vegetables bell pepper, onion, and celery are called by some chefs the holy trinity of Creole and Cajun cuisines. Finely diced and combined in cooking, the method is similar to the use of the mirepoix in traditional French cuisine, which blends finely diced onion, celery, and carrot. Typical seasonings include parsley, bay leaf, green onions or scallions, and dried cayenne pepper.
Baked Salmon with Spiced Herbs
A delicious salmon dish that tastes as good as it looks, this fragrant fish just melts in your mouth!
Serves / Makes: 4 servings
Prep-Time: 10 minutes
Cook-Time: 15 minutes
You Will Need
4 (650 grams), salmon fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 red chilli, seeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
200 grams, tenderstem broccoli
200 grams, trimmed asparagus
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the salmon fillets, skin-side down, on the prepared tray. Using a sharp knife, make 3 slits on top of the salmon.
Put the lemon juice, chilli, garlic, sugar, fresh coriander, parsley, cumin and ground coriander in a small bowl and mix well. Spread the topping over the salmon and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until done to your liking.
Meanwhile, steam the tenderstem broccoli and asparagus until tender.
Serve the fish with the steamed vegetables and steamed basmati rice and Enjoy!