The mornings are brighter, the evenings are lighter and we’ve noticed the spring is back in our step. It can only mean one thing… Spring is back in! So, to help you get ready, we’ve compiled a little collection of Spring-time recipes, including butternut squash tartlets - perfect for packing in your picnic boxes - light salmon fishcakes to replace the heavy, comfort foods which winter will have comprised of, a crispy egg salad and an Italian antipasto brushcetta, all to see you in to the alfresco season.
These tartlets by Camilla Stephens of Higgidy Pies are perfect for bridging the gap between winter pies and spring finger foods. Try hot or cold, straight from your picnic box.
6 tartlet tins (about 10cm diameter and 2cm deep)
For the pastry
200g plain flour
Salt, a generous pinch
30g Parmesan, grated
2 tsp caraway seeds
100g butter (make sure it’s cold)
1 medium free range egg yolk
1-2 tbsp ice cold water
For the filling
2 medium free range eggs and 1 egg yolk
150g crème fraîche
400g butternut squash, cut into dice
1 large red pepper, de-seeded and cut into large dice
Chilli flakes, a handful for sprinkling
A splash of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To begin, roast the butternut squash in the olive oil at 220°c/fan 200°c/gas 7 for about 20 minutes. Add the red pepper pieces to the tray, give it all a good shake, reduce the oven temperature to 200°c/fan 180°c/gas 6 and continue roasting for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside, leaving the oven on.
While the vegetables are roasting, make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the parmesan and caraway seeds; stir gently to combine. Cut the butter into small squares, about the size of dice and add to the flour. Using your fingertips and thumbs, pick up a small quantity of the mixture and lightly rub it together, allowing it to drop back into the bowl. Repeat until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Now add the egg yolk and the water and, using a round bladed knife, combine the ingredients until the pastry comes together, kneading it very briefly so it forms a ball. Wrap it in cling film and chill it for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly-floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin and use it to line the tartlet tins. Prick the bases with a fork and chill them for 15 minutes. Roll out the trimmings, cut out six stars and set them aside.
Line the chilled tartlet cases with baking parchment and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes at 200°c/fan 180°c/gas 6. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 180°c/ fan 160°c/gas 4.
Whisk one of the eggs and the egg yolk with the crème fraîche and ricotta. Season with a little salt and lots of black pepper and divide the mixture between the tartlet cases. Top with the roasted butternut squash and red pepper pieces and a pastry star. Beat the remaining egg and use it to glaze the star, then sprinkle with chilli flakes. Place the tartlets on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the filling has just set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Fish cakes make a great light Spring-time dinner, made a little more gluttonous with a hot and sticky sweet chilli sauce.
Ground nut or vegetable oil, for frying
Sweet chilli sauce, to serve
418g red or pink canned or fresh wild Alaska salmon
2 tbsp chopped spring onions
1 handful coriander, chopped
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped
½ tbsp grated root ginger
½ tbsp Thai red curry paste
Zest of 1 lime, juice of half
2 tbsp cornflour
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Pinch salt and black pepper
Drain the canned salmon, reserving the liquid. Remove any skin and bones, if wished, then break the salmon into chunks
Place all the ingredients for the fishcakes in a food processor and blend to form a smooth paste. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least ½ hour
When you are ready to cook, heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan. Drop spoonfuls of fishcake mixture into the oil and use the back of a spoon to gently shape the cakes into rounds
Cook for 1-2 minutes a side until firm and golden brown
Cook’s tip: These fishcakes are delicious hot and cold – just serve with plenty of sweet chilli sauce
Mat Follas (of the happy egg co) never ceases to impress with his brimming collection of gorgeous egg-based recipes, and this crispy egg salad is no exception.
100g Japanese breadcrumbs (you can use normal breadcrumbs if you don’t have Japanese)
100g Plain flour
2 sprigs of Tarragon
Enough salad leaves for 4 plates
Boil 4 eggs in a pan for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan. Gently tap the egg to crack the shell, and then place in cold water. After a few minutes in the cold water, peel the shell off (it should come off easily). Roll the eggs in flour, then whisked egg, then Japanese breadcrumbs and fry in vegetable oil at 180C for approx 1 minute until they are browned. This can be done either in a saucepan, or if in a frying pan, gently basting them with the hot oil and turning them every 20 seconds until they are browned and crispy. To finish, pan fry the peas and beans with a pinch of finely chopped Tarragon and present on a plate scattered with salad leaves with the eggs on top, sliced in half, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
A lovely little starter, or even main, for an Italian inspired alfresco dinner.
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar, plus extra to serve
2 figs, cut into eight
2 tbsp olive oil
4 slices ciabatta
½ garlic clove
2 small handfuls watercress
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves
50g Gorgonzola piccante
cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the sugar and balsamic vinegar and coat the figs in this mixture, leave for 15 minutes then transfer to a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until soft and caramelised
Meanwhile, brush olive oil over the ciabatta slices and toast for 1-2 minutes a side on a hot griddle or under the grill. Rub lightly with garlic
Top the ciabattas with watercress, mint, figs, a little black pepper and crumbled gorgonzola. Then, drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar before serving
Cook’s Tip: Try adding a few chopped walnuts or pistachios for an added crunch