Artichoke hearts, shallots, tomatoes, garlic
Remove the outer layers of the artichokes, cook in boiling water for approximately 7 minutes. Drain. Finely chop the shallots and sauté gently in olive oil until tender. Finely chop the tomatoes and add to the shallots. Continue to sauté for about 1 minute. Add finely chopped fresh thyme. Cut the artichokes lengthways, pile a spoonful of tomato mixture on top of each half. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Fresh spring fennel
These potent shoots can be found in the undergrowth in early spring. They are sweet and full of flavour and can be eaten raw or stir-fried with other vegetables, working well with fresh ginger. Infused in a vegetable stock with scallions they make a tasty light broth.
Stuffed courgette flowers, carrot pulp, chives
Tiny courgettes with flowers attached,
freshly ground black pepper,
extra virgin olive oil,
For the stuffing
1/2 small onion,
1 teaspoon smooth mustard,
zest and juice of 1 small orange,
juice from 1 small lemon.
Peel and roughly chop the carrots and onion. Put in a pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil, cover and slow cook on low heat until soft (stir occasionally - do not brown). Puree the cooked carrots (with their cooking juices) in a liquidizer, adding the lemon juice, mustard, orange zest and juice, combine until smooth. Spoon carefully into the flowers. Sauté the courgettes (and their stuffed flowers) gently in olive oil for 1 minute – place on dish, season with black pepper, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.
Stuffed vine leaves with figs, lemon, almond and muscatel grapes
In mid summer we collect some of the best young vine leaves and bottle them in brine. Occasionally we make these as part of a Sunday meze or save them to nibble with strong coffee,
8 preserved vine leaves,
100g dried figs,
2 large lemons (zest),
60g finely diced onion,
60g finely diced apple,
60g whole almonds,
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves,
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano,
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil,
small bunch muscatel grapes (halved, skin and pips removed),
Peel the onion and finely dice. Peel the apple, remove core and finely dice. Sauté together in olive oil on low heat for 5 minutes until soft - do not brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Zest the lemons. Trim the figs. Grind together with the sultanas, dried oregano and thyme leaves to form a rough paste. Turn out into a bowl. Grind the almonds (they need to be small but not powdery). Mix in with the figs and herbs. Add the cooked onion and apple, bring together with hands to form a thick paste – divide into small balls. Drain the vine leaves, rinse and dab dry. Place a ball of stuffing in the centre of each leaf, wrap round, place joint side down on serving plate, secure with a cocktail stick and garnish with prepared grapes.
Garden leaves with serrano, figs, dill and quail eggs
Carefully layer a generous handful of mixed leaves, 3 ripe figs (skin removed and quartered), 6 slices of serrano ham and 3 cooked quail eggs (shell removed and halved). drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, scatter some dill sprigs, season well with fresh black pepper.
200g short grain rice, 100g fresh cooked peas (soft), 1 onion, one stick of celery, a handful of parsley, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 500ml vegetable stock
Finely chop the onion, celery, parsley and garlic. Sauté in olive oil on medium heat with the uncooked rice, keep stirring for a few minutes until semi translucent. Add the stock, stir well and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, taste and stir as the liquid is absorbed - remove from heat when the rice has bite and is not yet soft. Stir in the cooked peas, season well. Serve immediately. Here we serve the risotto with wilted leeks and a little saffron infused vegetable stock.
Fresh mint tea
I first had this in Morocco years ago where it was poured from a great height from an ornate pot into ornate glasses. It is an instant remedy for heat sickness, a well infused large amount of fresh leaves with a little sugar or honey. You can also make a brew of green tea and then add the mint.
Little gem lettuces with pomegranate seeds
Over the winter you can spot the pomegranates hanging on the trees in the valley below. Their pink glossy seeds make an unusual addition to a salad. Trim the lettuce, cut in quarters lengthways. Peel and finely slice the white onion, scatter over the lettuce, scoop out the pomegranate seeds and scatter. Finely chop a little garlic and sauté until golden in olive oil, scatter over the salad. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil.