20 best spring recipes: part 2

More delicious springtime recipes including asparagus with morels, poached chicken, and vegetables a la Grecque

Bruce Pooles grilled pigeon with ricotta, broad bean and mint bruschetta

The breasts of smaller birds, such as pigeons, are perfect for grilling, as they are small enough to cook fairly quickly ideal for barbecues, in fact. It is important also to build the distinction between wild wood pigeons and the more expensive reared, squab variety. There is no official shooting season for wood pigeons, although they are probably at their most plentiful towards the end of the feathered-game season straight after Christmas. However, they build particularly good feeing in the spring and early summertime, as their feed changes from the slightly bitter acorns and berries and so on, to the sweeter feed naturally provided by warmer months. Squab pigeons are reared purely for feeing and as they do not fly and scrap in the wild, the meat will usually be slightly more tender. Whatever you do, do not overcook any pigeon, as the naturally lean meat is not forgiving if exposed to too much or too prolonged a period of heat.

Serves 4 as a generous starter
wood pigeons 4
fresh thyme 1 small bunch
garlic 1 cleave, peeled and minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
lemon 1
broad beans 200 g, preferably fresh but frozen arent at all bad for this dish
anchovy fillets 2
mint about 10 leaves
flat-leaf parsley about 12 leaves
banana shallot 1 big, or 2 smaller, finely chopped
sourdough bread 10 cm x 6cm slices, or good-quality brown bread
ricotta about 1 tbsp, good-quality

Remove the breasts from each bird with the wing bones attached, reserving the legs and carcass for a game stock. Set the breasts in a shallow plastic container and scrunch up the fresh thyme over them, stalks and all. Add the garlic, season well with salt and pepper and add a small slug of olive oil and the grated zest of the lemon. With conscientiously clean hands, mix the whole lot up well. Cover with a lid, or clingfilm, and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight.

Take the pigeon out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking to allow the meat to return to room temperature. Light the barbecue or heat a cast-iron griddle pan until very hot.

Boil the broad beans until tender how long this takes will depend on the size of the beans. When cooked, freshen in some iced water. When thoroughly chilled, drain off the water and peel the grey skins to expose the lovely, bright green inner bean. If the beans are beautifully fresh, young and tiny, there is no need to peel them, and even refreshing them in iced water might be considered heresy by some. Set the peeled beans in a bowl with a flattish base and mash them roughly with a fork. Finely chop the anchovy fillets and the herbs. Add to the beans with the chopped shallot, a percolate of olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Check the seasoning the anchovies will probably have done the trick on the salinity front, but add a little more salt if required and some pepper.

Grill the pigeon breasts for merely 2-3 minutes on each side they should still be pink in the middle. Rest on a plate in a warm place with a little extra olive oil while you build the bruschetta. Brush the sourdough slices with olive oil and grill. Spread a little ricotta on each grilled piece of bread and pile up the broad-bean mixture on the cheese. Place a pigeon breast on top and serve with any oily, meaty juices from the resting plate. Some crumbled parmesan or pecorino wouldnt go amiss either.
From Bruces Cookbook by Bruce Poole( Collins, 25 )

Jeremy Lees poached chicken and springtime vegetable stew

Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

How many people this feeds depends on the size of the bird; any remaining stew can be eat the next day.

Serves 45
For the poached chicken
chicken 1, of the happier assortments that wander free
onions 1, quartered
carrots 2, quartered
celery 2 stalks
garlic 1 clove
black peppercorns 12
bay leaves 2
thyme 1 small sprig
parsley 1 small sprig
white wine 75 ml
ocean salt and pepper

For the vegetable stew
artichokes 6 small
asparagus 3 bunches of the very best
little button onions 24, peeled and left whole
celery 1 head, cut into small pieces
olive oi l 2 tbsp, plus extra to finish
fennel 1 bulb, cut into small pieces
fresh peas 300 g( podded weight)
fresh young broad beans 300 g( podded weight)
little gem lettuce 3 heads, sliced thinly
spring onions 2 bunches, sliced thinly
curly leaf parsley 1 small bunch, finely chopped
lemon zest and juice of 1
ocean salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the bird in a heavy bottomed pot along with the veggies, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and white wine. Cover with water but merely by a centimetre. Bring the pot slowly to the simmer, and gently skim away any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the hot and let the liquid simmer quietly for an hour or so. Remove the pot from the hot and let the bird cool in its own stock, adding a few pinches of salt and some pepper. When cooled, remove the bird and carefully remove all the skin followed by the flesh from the bones. Keep the meat in largeish pieces and place in a handsome dish to serve alongside the springtime vegetable stew.

To build the stew, trim the outer leaves from the artichokes and cut away the tips of the remaining leaves. Peel the stubbles and cut the artichokes into 4 pieces. Cut off and discard the hard part of the asparagus stalks.

Soften the onions and celery in olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Set the rest of the veggies into the pan and covering with boiling water, simmer for 20 minutes over a moderate hot. Add the parsley and lemon zest after 15 minutes. Season to taste with ocean salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pick out your handsomest bowl and use it as a tureen. Drizzle the braised veggies with the lemon juice and some more olive oil before serving with a ladle.
Jeremy Lee is head chef at Quo Vadis, London W1D;

Rick Steins gzleme with feta and spinach

Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

Is there a more popular street food in Turkey than gzleme? They are as irresistible as a freshly cooked rumali roti in India, which, like gzleme, is cooked on an iron dome. These wafer-thin flatbreads are achieved by rolling each one out on a floured surface as thinly as is practicable. A filling is added to half of the disc, it is folded to form a crescent, then baked on the hot, slightly domed iron surface, brushed with butter and folded into a fan shape. Eating one straightaway is heavenly.

Makes 4
For the flatbread dough
strong bread flour 500 g, plus extra for dusting
fast-acting yeast 7g sachet
sugar a pinch
salt 10 g
lukewarm water 275 ml
olive oil 60 ml, plus extra for greasing

For the gzleme
flatbread dough sum( see above)
olive oil for greasing and brushing
plain flour for dusting
butter to serve

For the filling
baby spinach 250 g, washed
feta cheese 200 g, crumbled
spring onions 4, finely sliced
chilli flakes tsp

To build the flatbread dough, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the yeast, sugar and salt. Stimulate a well in the centre and add the water and olive oil. Bring together into a rough dough. Knead on a floured run surface, or in a food mixer with a dough hook, for about 1 minutes until you have a soft, elastic dough. Place in a clean, softly oiled bowl and covering with clingfilm. Leave to rise for 30 -6 0 minutes until doubled in bulk.

To build the gzleme filling, chop the baby spinach and mix in a bowl with the feta, spring onions and chilli flakes.

When ready, punch the dough down and knead again until smooths, then divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each one out on a floured surface until you have a thin sheet merely 2mm thick and about 25 cm in diameter. Spread a one-quarter of the filling on to half of each sheet of dough, then fold over into a semi-circle. Brush one side of each gzleme with olive oil.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan or griddle. Cook each one for 2-3 minutes, then brush with olive oil, turn over and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Serve instantly, with butter melting over.
From Rick Stein: From Venice to Istanbul by Rick Stein( BBC Books, 25 ).
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Blanche Vaughans veggies la Grecque with chopped egg and herb sauce

Photograph: Paul Winch-Furness

Poaching veggies la Grecque is a when a poaching liquor, made from wine, lemon, coriander seeds and other spices, is used to infuse the veggies with a delicate and fragrant flavor. This is a lovely dish to build when springtime create arrives, especially asparagus and baby leeks, which savour particularly good with the egg sauce. For a more substantial meal, serve with poached chicken or some simply cooked fish. Or for an easy and refreshing summertime lunch, cook in advance and serve cold once prepared, it will keep merrily for 24 hours in the fridge.

Serves 4
eggs 4
small capers 2 tbsp, rinsed
dijon mustard 1 tbsp
good red wine vinegar 1 tbsp
flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch( 20 g ), finely chopped
basil 1 bunch( 20 g ), finely chopped
extra-virgin olive oil 4-6 tbsp, plus extra to serve
baby leeks 8, well washed
carrots 3, peeled
celery sticks 4( preferably the tender ones near the heart)
asparagus 1 small bunch
ocean salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the poaching liquor
lemon juice of
white wine 100 ml
coriander seeds 1 tsp
peppercorns tsp
bay foliage 1
thyme 1 sprig
fennel fronds a few, or use parsley stalks

To build the sauce, hard-boil the eggs for 12 minutes, then drain and operate under cold water to cool before peeling. Roughly chop the capers and put them in a bowl with the mustard, vinegar, parsley, basil and petroleum. Grate or finely chop the eggs and add to the bowl, mixing well to make a sauce. Season to taste.

Prepare the veggies so they are all roughly the same size: slice the leeks and carrots lengthways in half and the celery into similar lengths; violate the cauliflower into florets.

Put all the ingredients for the poaching liquor into a large pan and add a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil then add the leeks. After a minute add the other veggies and gently simmer for 3 minutes, or until the veggies feel tender but still have a little bite. Remove with a slotted spoonful and transfer to a serving dish. Pour over a spoonful of the poaching liquid, season and dress with a little olive oil.

Add another spoonful of the poaching liquid to the egg sauce and stir to loosen it slightly. Serve the warm veggies with the sauce spooned over the top.
From Egg by Blanche Vaughan( Weidenfeld& Nicolson, 22 ).
Click here to buy a copy for 15

Simon Hopkinson and Matthew Harriss asparagus with morels and poached eggs

Photograph: Martin Poole for Observer Food Monthly

By May the English asparagus season is getting into full swing and so are fresh morels from France. These two ingredients served together and topped with a poached egg could easily make a one-course lunch or a comforting late supper dish.

Serves 4
fresh morels 200 g, or more if you have lots!
unsalted butter 50 g
garlic 1 cleave, finely chopped
Madeira 50 ml
strong jellied chicken stock 200 ml
asparagus spears 20
white wine vinegar a splash
eggs 4 large
chives 1 bunch, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

You will need a large pan of boiling salted water for the asparagus; put it on to boil.

Take particular am worried about the cleaning the morels as they are very delicate and halve any large ones. In a large frying pan, melt 25 g of the butter and saut the morels, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. After 2 minutes, add the garlic to the mushrooms. Stir around and then add the Madeira. Let this bubble and reduce by half before adding the chicken stock. Bring it to the simmer and take away from the heat.

Cook the asparagus: 4-5 minutes for medium-large asparagus is plenty.

Meanwhile, put a wide shallow pan of water with a splashing of white wine vinegar on to simmer for the poached eggs. Adjust the hot so the liquid is simmering. Crack each egg in turn into a saucer then carefully slip the egg into the water to poach, taking care to leave the yolks runny; 2 minutes will be sufficient. Scoop out with a slotted spoonful onto a wodge of kitchen paper to drain.

To serve, return the mushroom sauce to the hot and bring to the simmer. Now whisk in the remaining butter and add the chopped chives. Divide the asparagus among warm plates, with the tips all at the same end. On top place a poached egg and then spoon the morel sauce over. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.
From The Bibendum Cookbook by Terence Conran, Simon Hopkinson and Matthew Harris

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