Spring is springing, well it is trying to at least. We go from shorts to jumpers within the day here at the moment. One moment we were barbecuing on the beach, basking in the sunshine, then the following day, wrapping up in winter layers and lighting the fires!
This jumping around of the temperature not only confuses us but also the vegetables that are trying hard to grow despite the stop/start weather.
That said, this morning at the market we began to see some of the spring fruits and vegetables that I have been yearning for – asparagus, gariguette strawberries, new season spinach, fennel, artichokes, courgettes and radishes.
Radishes here are plentiful and at this time of year, whilst the soil is still moist from winter, the radishes are big, crunchy and juicy. Later on in the season when it gets hotter and drier, the radishes will be smaller and spicier. When buying radishes always look at the leaves too, try to choose a bunch that has fresh, green leaves as that way you can use them for making a very tasty pesto. If they have turned yellow, or are tired looking then they are only good for the compost bin!
I decant this pesto into several small pots and freeze them so that I always have plenty to hand. It can be used as a dip, to make up salad dressings, as a base for tarts or pizzas, for a quick and easy pasta supper, stirred into soups, with grilled fish or lamb chops. It is so versatile!
1 bunch of radish leaves, pick out any wilted/yellow leaves and discard
1 large handful of fresh coriander
1 handful of rocket
2 fresh garlic cloves
1 small spring onion
The zest and juice of half a lemon
1 handful of whole almonds (skins on)
1 – 2 tbsp roughly chopped or grated aged brebis cheese (to taste)
1 – 2 tbsp quality olive oil ( the best you have as it really makes a difference)
Seasoning to taste
Thoroughly wash the radish leaves, they will probably be very gritty, and spin dry in a salad spinner along with the rocket and coriander leaves.
- Put into a food processor along with the garlic, spring onion, lemon zest and juice, almonds and cheese.
- Blitz for several minutes and then drizzle in the olive oil until you have a paste like consistency, roughly around 2 tablespoons, soap down and blitz again.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, you probably won’t want any additional salt and depending on the bitterness of the leaves add more or less cheese.
Alternatives: this is a very flexible pesto and can be adapted to whatever you have around and is in season, the key is to use the freshest of ingredients possible as any tiredness will be exaggerated.
The rocket can be omitted or replaced with young spinach leaves, in the summer replace the coriander with basil and mint. Of course the almonds can be replaced with the more traditional pine nuts but they are not local here and so are hugely expensive and also I am very fearful of dysgeusia* and what that might do to my palate and so tend to avoid them unless I am comfortable with the source!
Now is the time that wine makers are bottling their wines and this bright and cheery weather makes me reach out for crisp and aromatic whites. Perfect with the clean and green flavours of spring vegetables.
The herby, slightly bitter flavours of this pesto packs a tangy punch so requires an aromatic wine with depth that won’t be fazed but equally won’t try and fight with all those flavours! I enjoy it with Mas Champart’s IGP Pays D’Oc from Saint Chinian. A delicious blend of Terret ( a local variety enjoying a come back!) and Grenache Gris, unctuous with a mineral freshness.
*Dysgeusia refers to the persistent, unpleasant, and often metallic taste on the palate. It has been linked to pine nuts, especially those produced in China. It is a sensation that can last anything from a few hours to a lifetime. Hence my wariness!
By Emma Kershaw
La Maison du Rire
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Les Collines de l’Hirondelle – Douzens
Librairie Le Nom de L’Homme – Lagrasse
Boutique Eppo Dekker – Lagrasse
L’Atelier des Vignerons – Limoux