April In Season

Eat produce when it's at its best.

This months seasonal produce

Spring herbs, spinach, watercress, shallots, blood oranges and rhubarb

Oysters

Oysters

The most storied shellfish of all is worthy of its place in our imaginations – and on our tables, says Clarissa Hyman.

Competitive oyster eating down the centuries makes for an eye-opening, stomach-gurgling list. Casanova ate 50 a day; Henry IV and Louis XIV as many as 300 in a sitting. The champion oyster-swallower, however, still has to be the Roman Emperor Vitellius, who is said to have regularly eaten 100 dozen oysters at a time, which may explain why his reign lasted less than year. That and the fact he spent more than the equivalent of £8 million on his imperial table in that brief period. When in Rome, as they say. As has frequently been noted, it must have been a brave soul who first ate a raw oyster. Desperate, I would say, as there’s no getting away from the fact we eat them both raw and alive. Thankfully they neither shriek when prised open nor squeal when jabbed, but as an American zoologist calmly noted: ‘Even thoughtful people callously look for the muscular twitch as they drop lemon...read more

Other seasonal produce

Rocket

The perennial peppery sandwich filler is on the menu and here to stay. Clarissa Hyman gives tips to use it beyond the breadbin and finds it’s jolly easy to grow, too. Recipes by Linda Tubby

If the transient laws of food and fashion are anything to go by, rocket should long have outlived its usefulness. Yet its star continues to rise, fuelled by availability, price and sandwich vendors’ penchant for cramming it into every lunch they can. It was expected to retire gracefully once...read more

Rocket

Spring Onions

Forgo the garnish and use these bright bunches for crisp salads and light dishes, says Clarissa Hyman. Or simply grill on their own and dip... with recipes by Linda Tubby

He says spring onions and she says green onions and they say salad onions and someone else says scallions – and I say to hell with it. Just one look reminds me of the great Chinese poet Tu Fu who described them beautifully as grass-green bundles with bulbs as delicate as white jade, bringing inner...read more

Spring Onions

Spinach

Heralding the arrival of spring, Helen Hokin extols the fresh taste and nutritional boost of spinach, the versatile leafy green with recipes by Linda Tubby

The first we heard of spinach in Britain was when Richard II’s master cooks penned a simple recipe for it in England’s earliest cookery book. Their 14th-century suggestion to boil and then fry it isn’t a million miles from one of the methods we might use to prepare it today. However, even...read more

Spinach

Rhubarb

With its vibrant flavours and vivid colours ranging from pale salmon pink to brilliant red, English rhubarb brings a much-needed dose of excitement to the kitchen after the dull days of winter with recipes by Linda Tubby

As winter’s grip begins to loosen, spring is heralded by the persistent rise of rhubarb, bursting from barren fields and gardens, proudly proclaiming the earth’s renewal and the start of the new season. Slender and tender, soft forced rhubarb, with its tightly furled yellow leaves, has been...read more

Rhubarb

Spring Herbs

Give salads an aromatic twist with delicate chervil and take feisty tarragon for a twirl with ripe and juicy tomatoes. As for spring lamb and rosemary, it’s a no-brainer, says Helen Hokin with recipes by Linda Tubby

The world might have gone to war over spices but herbs were dismissed, even despised, as peasant food foraged from meadows, until the Elizabethans potted the first sprig of rosemary. From then on kitchen gardens flourished and herbs were acknowledged as an important flavouring for food....read more

Spring Herbs

Watercress

Its peppery kick may not find favour with the masses but, says Clarissa Hyman, it is just the job to enliven healthy wintery dishes with recipes by Linda Tubby

The watercress lover tends to voice three main gripes whenever they meet a fellow devotee. Firstly, why does the cress de nos jours not boast quite so assertive a taste as it once did? Secondly, why is it largely the fate of this remarkable little plant to languish on the side of the plate, playing...read more

Watercress

Blood Oranges

Rosemary Barron discovers that these blushing beauties – once a symbol of status and power in medieval times – have had a colourful history, no matter which way you segment them with recipes by Linda Tubby

Late winter, a stroll along the stony paths crossing the slopes of Sicily’s volcanic Mount Etna will take you through a landscape unchanged in centuries. As you pass through neat citrus groves, assailed by a heady perfume and overwhelmed by the beauty of the crimson-blushed oranges among...read more

Blood Oranges

Shallots

Diminutive in size but big in flavour, Clarissa Hyman charts haute cuisine’s love affair with that delicious spring bulb, the shallot with recipes by Linda Tubby

Small but perfectly formed, shallots are miniature members of the allium family, and probably the most highly prized of the tribe amongst cooks. If onions are an everyday necessity, then shallots are a refined culinary pleasure. Their alternative name, scallion, is connected to Ascalon, a Crusader...read more

Shallots

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