Early Spring – not Winter – is the “hungry season” in the North East, when winter stores have run low and the new season produce isn’t growing yet. But with the Spring Equinox, longer daylight hours mean that free range hens will be laying more, so…
You can be sure of the provenance of lamb, beef, pork and poultry bought direct from the producers at Farmers’ Markets. Try some of the cheaper cuts such as shoulder of pork or shin of beef which make very tasty, economical meals when cooked slowly with root vegetables, and just add dumplings to make them go even further. Served with a jacket potato a stew makes a warming meal in this cold weather.
Hens respond to the lighter days by increasing egg production so between mid March and mid October they are plentiful. If you buy eggs at a Farmers’ Market you can ask about the type of hens, what they are fed and how they are kept. Fresh, free range eggs taste so good and for a quick and easy meal make a leek omelette – sauté the sliced leeks until they are soft and then pour over the lightly beaten eggs with a little milk and seasoning added.
Wild garlic is one of the first signs of spring, the leaves poking through the soil in brilliant green blades as early as mid-January. The leaves are slender and spear-shaped and there is usually a garlicky smell that leads you to where it is growing in woodland. Wild garlic leaves are much milder than the bulbs. The flowers are also edible and make a pretty garnish. Once the flowers appear though, the leaves can lose their pungency and become tough so search for younger, fresher specimens. As usual when foraging just take a small amount and don’t dig up the bulbs. There’s a good guide to foraging called “Wild Harvest” edited by Fiona Martynoga and look for the linked app which has lots of photos and guidance to help you identify plants and fungi.
Leek and potato soup is easy to make and wild garlic can add to the flavour, add small leaves to a salad, sprinkle torn leaves over a cooked pizza or add as a garnish to a soup or omelette.