Spring – a time to entertain!
Spring has always inspired me to entertain. A table outside in the fresh green garden and warm breeze amongst the smell of blossoms and jasmine, is always so inviting. In Johannesburg, this only comes a bit later in spring so it gives me plenty of time to find inspiration and plan menus. I’m a spring baby so perhaps this is the reason I always feel so celebratory during this season!
This year in particular, having just come out of lockdown, the idea of having friends around my table again is more exciting than ever. The beauty of spring is you can host a group of friends at a large table outdoors responsibly, while still enjoying their company, great food and a sense of togetherness.
Resolving to eat well
Just like New Year, I feel like spring is a time for resolutions. For many, this is the time to change the way they’ve been eating to get their bodies ready for summer.
The idea of eating salad in winter leaves me stone cold, but somehow, spring conjures up images of fresh, green, crisp, healthy vegetables and suddenly they seem far more palatable. From a multitude of salads to al dente spring baby vegetables, to lemony asparagus pastas (that now replace the heavy, starchy, comfort food of winter), spring offers us a variety of colourful, flavourful menus that inspire us to eat well.
Gardening – grow your own
One of the joys of spring, is getting back into my garden. During the cold winter months, everything is drab and dying so I’m not motivated to be outside. That said, I do make an effort to grow a few winter vegetables, get the pruning done, and prepare the garden so I can reap the benefits in spring. There is nothing more satisfying than those first spring shoots, the blossoms on the trees – which for me, means peach jam later in the summer – and ultimately harvesting your own herbs and vegetables to add to a dish you’re making.
With spring comes the emergence of fruit and vegetables that weren’t as readily available during winter. Sometimes we are led to believe that all vegetables should be available all year round, but when eaten in the right season, the reason for seasonality becomes spectacularly clear! Some vegetables just grow better and taste better in the spring, and they’re absolutely worth the wait.
A few of my favourite spring dishes include quiches garnished with fresh rocket and basil, Caprese salad and sesame salmon cones because they make a beautiful, light party snack. I enjoy making things that are quick and easy to prepare so that I have more time to be outside enjoying the best of spring with my guests.
All kinds of berries are a regular feature in my spring and summer menus and many of these recipes can be found in my book “Pink Gin and Fairy Cakes”. Among my favourites are Strawberry Ice-cream Cake, Raspberry Sorbet, Champagne and Strawberry Float, Blueberry Ice-cream, and Cheesecake with Strawberries.
The first sign of spring in my herb garden is the bright green mint leaves that pop through the brown. I’m always delighted to see these and, tiny as they may be, they get thrown into drinks and dishes with great enthusiasm!
Fresh mint is definitely my hero ingredient for spring. It has so many wonderful uses and it will add a refreshing dimension to your drinks, salads, dressings and dips.
Think ice cold Gin Cocktails, Iced Tea, warm Green Minty Tea, Feta Dip, Watermelon and Mint Salad, Prosciutto Melon and Mint Salad, Mint Sauce with Roast Lamb and Pomegranate Jewels… the possibilities are endless.
Mint is such a simple ingredient – easy to grow and an absolute culinary game changer!