Spring superstars: Annie Bell’s fresh, fast and flavourful dishes

Fresh, fast, flavourful… Annie Bell’s recipes showcase everything we’re picking – and loving – right now.

Pea, avocado & watercress mezze

I love the gentle sweetness of this dip, and its rustic nature. It’s hard to stop scooping once you start!

pea, avocado and watercress mezze
Ellis Parrinder

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Slow-cooked lamb with saffron & new season tomatoes

Silky slow-cooked lamb with a lively tomato and coriander salad and warm flatbreads is a fab line-up. You could also stir your favourite grain into the salad in lieu of bread – cooked bulgur wheat, quinoa, spelt or buckwheat are all good additions.

slow-cooked lamb
Ellis Parrinder

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Asparagus casarecce with prawns

Casarecce is one of my favourite pasta shapes that I often turn to instead of macaroni. This creamy sauce makes a star out of asparagus stalks.

prawns and asparagus pasta
Ellis Parrinder

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One-pot chicken with new potatoes & new season garlic

I always look forward to the narrow window when new season garlic makes an appearance alongside tiny earth-crusted potatoes with their fine papery skin. Standard garlic or even smoked garlic works equally well here.

one-pot chicken
Ellis Parrinder

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Purple-sprouting broccoli with poached egg & anchovy

Purple-sprouting broccoli tastes so good when it is griddled and served with a poached egg. This makes for a real treat of a brunch or light supper.

broccoli and poached egg
Ellis Parrinder

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Burrata, broad bean & pea shoot salad

As soft cheeses go, burrata is on the wicked side, turning this salad into an indulgence. Frozen baby broad beans are not to be sniffed at if fresh prove elusive – they’re one of my freezer staples at any time of year.

broad bean burrata salad
Ellis Parrinder

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Griddled tuna with wild garlic and pecan pesto

When wild garlic is not available other soft fragrant leaves, including watercress, spinach, basil and parsley, or a mixture, will make lovely pestos.

tuna
Ellis Parrinder

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What to eat when

Asparagus

It is said St George’s Day (23 April) marks the start and midsummer’s day (21 June) the end of asparagus season, and it is well worth eating as many of these vibrant green spears as you can between those dates. They require little more than a quick steam and some melted butter, lemon juice and salt to shine, though soft-boiled eggs and smoked fish are also welcome bedfellows.

Broad beans

These are in season from May to September. Early on they are smaller, sweeter and the skins are tender enough to be left on and eaten. Later the skins can turn leathery and require peeling (also known as double-podding) before serving. They purée well into summery dips, and are wonderful scattered over salads and pastas.

Garden peas

A bowl of peas in the pod on the table, ready for unzipping and eating there and then, is a highlight of the British summer. When cooked they happily find their way into just about all summer foods, from frittatas and salads to pestos, dips and coconutty curries.

New-season garlic

We cook with garlic all year round, but in a short window from May to June you can find plump new-season bulbs, their outer skin often streaked with purple. The cloves are sweet and mellow, delicate enough to be used raw in dressings, or the bulbs are wonderful roasted, as in the recipe above.

Purple-sprouting broccoli

This has long heralded early spring, the first leafy spears appearing in February and bringing much-needed greenery into our root-veg dominated kitchens. As in the recipe on the facing page, they are often best blanched first if you intend to fry them. Sadly, the purple colour tends to rinse out during cooking.

Tomatoes

We grow fantastic tomatoes in this country, with plenty of varieties to choose from: the season starts in June and runs to October. A good sun-ripened tomato should balance acidity and sweetness, and is a welcome guest in all salads all summer long.

Wild garlic

Even timid foragers can reap a bagful of wild garlic – it grows in abundance near woodlands, announcing itself on the breeze for miles around. The first shoots appear in March and are the most delicate in flavour. By April and May they’re more pungent and their white flowers blossom (they’re edible and look pretty scattered over salads). Blanch later season leaves for 30-60 seconds in boiling water to mellow the flavour. It makes wonderful soups, butters, mayonnaises and pestos. For my recipe for griddled tuna with wild garlic and pecan pesto, see above.

Recipes: Annie Bell. Photographs: Ellis Parrinder. Food styling: Lou Kenney. Styling: Charlie Phillips