April is the cruellest month wrote TS Eliot, but after a winter that seemed to last forever, the arrival of spring seems anything but mean-spirited now that brighter colours and flavours are breaking through - including wonderful wild garlic.
- Cockles are small, edible bivalves. Traditionally sold with winkles and whelks, cockles have been a popular British seaside snack for many years. They were also sold by vendors outside London pubs who, in the absence of scales, used a pint glass as a measure. They've been sold by the pint ever since.
- Live cockles in their shells are available from some fishmongers. Cooked and shelled cockles can be bought in jars, preserved in brine or vinegar. They can be used in seafood pie or tossed in a salad, eaten raw or steamed until their shells open, like mussels. Use them in soups, risotto and paella or stew them in a tomato sauce for pasta.
- Penclawdd cockle chowder
- Cockles with smoked chilli broth
- Penclawdd cockle chowder
- Cockles, laverbread and Welsh bacon
- Crabs produce both white and brown meat. The sweet white meat comes from the claws, while the rich brown meat comes from the body, including the liver, which is considered a delicacy. Fans of crab say that this crustacean has sweeter tasting white meat than lobster has.
- Male crabs tend to have larger claws and more white meat. However, the females can come with coral - a flavoursome red roe. You can buy a crab live and boil it yourself, or alternatively ask your fishmonger to kill it for you, or buy it ready cooked.
- Crabmeat is great in pastas, salads, soups or soufflés. It goes well with cream, butter, lemon and chilli. Cooked crabmeat can be bought in cans too, which is useful for adding to pasta or making quick crabcakes, but the flavour is not as good as the fresh version.
- Dressed crab
- Crabcakes with a tomato, crab and basil dressing
- Crabcakes and mayonnaise
- Crab, saffron and leek quiche
- Individual crab soufflés
- Lettuce was first cultivated as a medicine. Wild lettuce contains an active element with a mild sleep-inducing effect. Lettuce is now widely used in Asian and Western cookery. Cooked lettuce has long been popular in Asian kitchens - it is often stir-fried or blanched in China. It also makes a handy serving container for spicy minced meat salads in Thai or Korean cooking.
- Cooked lettuce is becoming trendier in Europe - it all started with petit pois á la Française, the traditional dish of cooked peas and finely sliced lettuce. These days, chefs are adding it to risotto or grilling stuffed lettuce halves with cheese.
- Lettuce with oyster sauce
- An extraordinary way with lettuce
- Korean beef in lettuce Risotto with lettuce and spring onion
- Fish pie with petit pois á la Française
- Spinach is featured in cuisines all over the world. Full of vitamins and iron, its health-giving properties are well known, but it's generally loathed by young children - in spite of Popeye's attempts to promote its virtues.
- Young leaves are best because older leaves can be tough. Spinach has a distinctly earthy flavour; the leaves can be enjoyed as a side vegetable or as salad, or they can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes including soups, pies, omelettes, soufflés or quiches.
- Mediterranean filo pastry pie
- Buttered spinach
- Spinach, mushroom and ricotta quiche with sautéed spinach
- Quesadillas with spinach and goats' cheese
- Lamb is associated with spring in many cultures. In Christian cultures, it's the roast to serve on Easter Sunday. Lamb is available all year round but spring lamb has small, slender bones with pink, rosy coloured flesh that is meltingly tender and more subtle than darker-fleshed summer or autumn lamb. Choose joints and cuts carefully; go for lean pieces and avoid any with yellow or crumbly fat.
- Roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary
- Spring lamb with spinach and feta rolls
- Spring lamb stew with ricotta dumplings
- Spiced spring lamb with black-eyed beansg
- In the UK, wild garlic (Allium ursinum) has many peculiar identities - 'bear's garlic', 'devil's garlic', 'gypsy's onions' and 'stinking Jenny' are just some of them. It's no surprise that this seasonal ingredient is called so many names - it gives off an incredibly pungent smell in the wild. Unlike common cultivated garlic, it's the leaves that are eaten rather than the bulbs. The taste is more delicate too, similar to the flavour of chives.
- The leaves can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Be sure to wash them well - some recipes also call for blanching the leaves for a few minutes in boiling water. Wild garlic can be stirred into risottos or omelettes, added to soups or used in sauces to accompany meat and fish.
- Honey and za'atar-glazed spring lamb with salsify and wild garlic purée
- Roast best end of lamb with garlic fritters and a wild garlic cream sauce
- Steamed monkfish with wild garlic and ginger