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What to eat in May

From sea trout to nettles, early summer brings with it an abundance of ingredients.  Blanche Vaughan picks her favourites and suggests some recipes to help make the most of them

Smoked Kippers

Smoked kippers 

 Jaffy’s Oak Smoked Malaig Kippers are produced by the last traditional kipper yard in Malaig, on the north west coast of Scotland. The herrings are landed at ports closest to the smokehouse to ensure the freshest fish. They are full of natural oils, so there is no need to douse them in butter. Just cover with water, bring to the boil and serve with plenty of black pepper and brown toast. jaffys.co.uk

 

Radishes

They are delicious raw, but I like to cook radishes, too. Braised with some lightly sweated onion, chicken stock and butter, and finished with chopped parsley before serving, they make a perfect side dish for roast chicken. If you grow your own radishes, or buy them fresh, you can also eat the leaves – either raw in a salad, or stirred into cooking radishes towards the end, so that they wilt into the stock.

Sea trout

Another of my favourite types of fish swims into focus in May – sea trout, the king of the salmonidae family. Although sea trout are actually the same species as brown trout, these fish have migrated to the sea, where they can grow as large as salmon and develop a delicious, succulent texture. Cook and serve trout as you would salmon: roasted or poached whole; or cut into fillets and grilled. It is also excellent raw – thinly sliced and marinated in lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and slivers of fennel.

Nettles

Nature’s superfood, nettles are one of the easiest ingredients to forage. Don your rubber gloves and pick basketfuls while they are young and tender in spring. Pinch just the top leaves and avoid cooking the stalks, which are fibrous and tough. Italians often use nettles in cooking: wilted and stirred into cooked pasta with plenty of butter and parmesan; or boiled, puréed and added to risotto. I also like to use them as I would any other greens – try them in a frittata with spring onions and goats’ cheese.

Langoustines

May is the season for lobster but, given the choice, I prefer langoustines – lobster’s smaller relation. Caught off the west coast of Scotland, where most of the best shellfish comes from, they are the juiciest treat. Boil them for 3 minutes in plenty of well-salted water, then serve hot or chilled with lots of mayonnaise – preferably homemade. Keep the shells and heads to make the ultimate shellfish stock.

Spinach

Late spring to early summer is the season for spinach, when it is warm enough for it to grow, but it has not begun to go to seed. If you grow your own, it is a great cut-and-come-again crop. To keep in as many nutrients as possible, rather than boiling it, I wash it and put it into a large pot on a high heat. Cover with a lid and let it steam for a minute or two before draining. All it needs is a dressing of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon to serve. Or toss with raisins, pine nuts and sweated onions for some Moorish flavours.

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of House & Garden magazine.  Imagery courtesy of Alice Patullo.

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