After two months of trying, though not always achieving healthier eating and living patterns and a quieter social life, I am in the mood for dinner. Dinner as in having guests, thinking of menus and looking forward to a few languorous hours of conviviality.
The need to get together and eat with others is very strong. Spring, with all its hopefulness, warmer days and the promise of a garden full of flowers, inspires that instinct to feast.
So the plan is put into place, a date secured with a few friends, and thoughts turn to cooking. Like many, I plot dinner menus with seasonal food in mind. It is surely the logical, right way to eat, but March can be a challenging month. Most UK grown, springtime vegetables are yet to arrive.
Much as I love all the big carrots, celeriac and parsnips that have lasted through the winter, I’m impatient for dishes that reflect the newness and cheerfulness of spring. Thankfully, there are ways to make a visually pretty dinner, using the very few new-season greens available and a little stimulation from the spice cupboard.
Where would we be without turmeric? Not meaning the current trend for the spice as a health food, but its bright side – the colour. Alone it is a strange-tasting spice – woody, oddly smoky – but as a marinade with a little salt and ginger, it delicately enhances a simple and easy starter of sautéed fresh haddock. Served with a fresh green ‘chutney’, emerald bright, it becomes a dish that looks and tastes brilliant.
For pudding, there is always chocolate. There is not one moment in the year when it is unwelcome, and wedges of a dark mousse-cake will be rich and glossily enticing. A satisfying end to a meal that is all about the cusp of spring and making the most of what we have to hand.
In the attached menus you will be able to make a Spring Dinner for your friends, enjoy the change in weather and the chance to (maybe) think about eating with the windows open!