The froth of cherry blossom, fats bunches of asparagus and spring sunshine are right here to elevate our spirits, however these first spring days typically finish with a sure chill and the necessity for what I name “a correct dinner”. A glowing pot of lamb maybe, left to putter away within the oven, the meat slowly nudged in direction of tenderness by a few hours in a mildly spiced tomato sauce. I did simply that this week, stirring in a deep, aromatic heat with a spoonful of rose harissa. I launched tart little dried apricots and the fizz of lemon, partly to place a spring in its step and partly as a result of I like the wedding of lamb and apricots. Everybody wiped their plates clear with leaves of pink-tipped chicory – perky, like rabbits’ ears – and slices of what’s most likely the final of the yr’s blood oranges.

The week had already had one thing of a celebratory ring to it. I had discovered a few bunches of early asparagus and introduced them residence, cradled on the prime of the procuring bag to guard the delicate ideas. The event felt particular sufficient to make a bowl of hollandaise sauce made all of the extra seasonal with a handful of untamed garlic leaves. We piled the asparagus and sauce on to thick slices of toasted focaccia to make the considerably spendy spears go additional.

This is likely one of the slowest begins to spring for a lot of a yr, however simply strolling around the markets and outlets proper now, you possibly can really feel the temper is altering. In addition to native wild garlic, the primary French Gariguette strawberries are right here, packing containers of loquats for poaching with sugar and lemon, and fats bunches of purple sprouting, as stunning as a bunch of violets. Slowly, however absolutely, the enjoyable is beginning.

Asparagus wild garlic hollandaise

After I first began cooking, hollandaise carried a sure terror. A concern that vanished as soon as I cottoned on that each one might be properly so long as you add the butter slowly, drop by drop at first, and that the sauce mustn’t get too scorching. Ought to it do its worst and curdle on you, the naughty sauce can often be rescued by reducing the bowl right into a sink of chilly water and giving it a rattling good whisking. Ought to that fail, place one other egg yolk in a clear bowl, over the simmering water, and slowly beat within the curdled sauce. Wild garlic is out there from farmers’ markets, greengrocers and a few supermarkets. Serves 2 as gentle lunch

asparagus 400g
sourdough bread or focaccia 4 slices

For the hollandaise:
egg yolks 3
white wine vinegar 2 tsp
melted butter 200g
wild garlic leaves 50g
lemon juice a squeeze

To make the hollandaise sauce, put a pan of water on to boil and discover a heatproof glass or china bowl that may match neatly into it with out touching the water. Drop within the egg yolks and vinegar. Whisk within the melted butter, very slowly at first, then in an intermittent stream, whisking on a regular basis till you’ve gotten a thick, creamy sauce.

Finely chop the garlic leaves and stir into the sauce, together with the lemon. Take away the pan from the warmth, however depart the bowl over the water. Whisk now and again to forestall it from separating.

For the asparagus, carry a big pot of water to the boil. Trim the asparagus, eradicating any dry ends. Decrease within the asparagus and depart to prepare dinner for 5-7 minutes, relying on the thickness of the spears. I wish to prepare dinner them till they’re simply tender sufficient to bend. Take away from the water with a draining spoon or kitchen tongs (tipping right into a colander could injury the delicate ideas), then allow them to drain.

Toast the slices of bread calmly, then place a spoonful of sauce on every. Divide the asparagus between them, then spoon over a few of the sauce and serve any additional on the facet.

Lamb with rose harissa and apricots

Lamb with rose harissa and apricots.
Style of spring: lamb with rose harissa and apricots. {Photograph}: The Observer

A easy, quietly pleasing rice pilau would work properly with the fruit and spice notes of the lamb. A number of salad leaves – chicory or watercress maybe – can be good to mop the juices out of your plate. Like many such casseroles, that is one thing of a keeper and can come to no hurt if stored within the fridge for a few days. Reheat the dish slowly, over a low to reasonable warmth. I’ve additionally made this recipe with pork and it is rather good. Serves 4

floor cinnamon 2 tsp
floor cumin 2 tsp
floor turmeric 2 tsp
scorching paprika 1 tsp
olive oil 2 tbsp
diced lamb shoulder 1 kg
onions 2, medium
garlic 4 cloves
dried apricots 250g
sultanas 60g
honey 2 tbsp
inventory 750ml
chopped tomatoes 2 x 400g cans
rose harissa 2 tbsp
lemon 1

Put the bottom spices – cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, paprika – right into a mixing bowl, add the lamb and toss totally and put aside for a few hours. For those who had in a single day, that may be even higher.

Set the oven at 180C/fuel mark 4. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based casserole over a reasonable to excessive warmth, then add the lamb and fry till calmly browned, stirring and turning the meat now and again. Take care to not let the spices burn.

Whereas the meat is frying, peel and roughly chop the onions. Carry the meat out with a draining spoon and put aside, then add the onions to the pan (with somewhat extra oil if crucial) and allow them to prepare dinner for an excellent 10-Quarter-hour, stirring usually over a reasonable warmth. Peel and thinly slice the garlic, then add to the onions.

Halve and stone the apricots, if they’ve stones. Add the sultanas, honey, inventory, tomatoes and apricots and produce to the boil. Decrease the warmth, add the browned meat and canopy with a lid. Switch the casserole to the oven and prepare dinner for two hours until the meat is tender, however not gentle.

Stir within the rose harissa and the juice of half the lemon; style and regulate with extra lemon, harissa and salt if you want.

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