Saturday, April 25, 2009

Best of British!

Crab, Asparagus, Jersey & Garden Salad..

The joyful season of spring is coming to an end and summer is very nearly here and this makes available some of England's finest natural finds which should be brought to the table more often. What better a day than St. George's for me to be shopping for ingredients and finding fresh Crab from Selsey, beautiful Asparagus picked that morning to inspire this dish of the lightest garden salad with warm jersey royals scented with soft garden mint....
Selsey is known throughout the south east of England for its outstanding crab and very happy I was to find this beauty, found in a St. Georges day market I chatted with the vendor for a while, he lives in Selsey and fishes his own small boat daily. Coming to different markets throughout the south and bringing with him beautiful fish and shellfish still to be found off the coast, the market was full of all types of small food businesses very much bringing back the provenance to our towns which is missed and celebrating our patrons day, lets not forget about being British..

The fisherman had landed his catch late the night before and they had cooked their crabs before heading off to markets, seeing it there on the ice I couldn't resist, managing to beat him down on price, this started my afternoon of searching for ingredients for our simple salad for dinner. Arriving home and cracking open the monster brought back early memories of working on the crustacea bar in London and the daily picking of the crab meat..

Asparagus, truly you can not find anywhere better than England for great asparagus and what a find picked that very morning from a Hampshire farm not more than 30 minutes away, the season appears to be starting a little early usually the first signs are the first week in may, the season runs for only 8 short weeks, so you need to make the most of it while you can! Officially 5 days to go, but look out now because you'll find some gems like these..

To peel or not to peel that is the question?.. I am always drawn between the choices, here I choose just to keep it simple throughout the whole dish, the best of British ingredients, letting the flavours speak for themselves, so naturally not peeled and just snapped off at their breaking point, I love the snapping sound, no need to cut, boiling salted water and dropped in 3-4 minutes, dressed in butter, perfect..

In all of the gardens across the country their are natural flowers and leaves we take for granted everyday, we tend to forget they have been eaten for years and used in cooking for generations preceding us, everyday we find our at the supermarkets 10-12 different lettuce varieties which have not originated or never seen English soil. Remember what you have which also grows free in our own gardens and as cooks to revisit the likes of pansies, violets, lilacs, dandelions, daises, garden mint, chives, shoots of radishes, not only flowers but also leaves brings back all the things we so often look abroad for, there are great things in this country of ours which are overlooked everyday, these flowers to me are exotic in their own right in flavour and appearance but all the time under your feet..

My favourite Pentland Javelin potatoes would be fantastic for this and are due in season after jerseys, they are often forgotten about for their excellent flavour which could easily match their rivals. For this though I used Jersey Royals we all know and love, they are at their best coming up over the next few weeks again, I chose the little ones for not only their look but also the firm earthy texture here, cooking them with fresh garden mint allowing it to infuse and keeping them the under side of crisp, I love to be able to bite heartily into them..
Cox apples, on their way out now, but I managed to find a beautiful ruby red one, the flavour is rich, honeyed and aromatic. The flesh is fine-textured, firm and juicy. The overall eating experience is exceptional, sliced thinly on a mandolin and then cut into julienne strips, dressed with a little lemon juice and pinch of salt it really enhances the sweet tones of the flaky white crab meat and gives an almost palate cleansing taste with each mouthful, adding a delightful lightness to the salad with the rich dark crab meat..

Handmade mayonnaise.. Crab meat is just not the same without it, I like to use a mix of half a light Olive Oil and half rapeseed oil, spoonful of fantastic English mustard and a splash of cider vinegar, salt. pepper, lovely..

So, all ingredients brought together and ready to use, time to assemble into a light crab and asparagus best of British garden salad, first the mashed dark crab meat mixed with a little fresh mayonnaise, seasoned squeeze of lemon juice and representative of the earth in our dish, with its rich earthly flavour..
Our next additions, the warm mint scented new potatoes and cox apple laying down the textures into the base of the salad, the apple with the dark crab meat to lighten the rich intense flavour and potatoes offering a crisp earthy texture..
Next our delicate white flaky flesh, the true soul of the dish, the beautiful meat brings together all the elements and is so light in flavour it helps to marry together the fragrant leaves and the rich hearty characteristics of potatoes..
To bind and dress from the inside of the salad, our handmade mayonnaise..
A little bit of tang and bite, the flavours of the natural garden with crisp green spring onions and the still warm crisp earthy flesh of the asparagus, the flavour of this asparagus was second to none..
Sweet and light and offering just a little crispness to the salad comes the natural sprouts of radishes and used here alfalfa as well, lightens the whole mouth feel and brings genuine garden flavours to the dish..
And to finish all the best from the natural garden, the leaves and flowers of everything available in our own back yard, picked for dinner while the salad was being prepared you just can't get fresher or more fragrant. There are so many natural flowers here which add lots of tones and delicate flavours to the dish, not only the flowers but also the leaves, I used, pansies, violets, lilacs, dandelions, daises, chives, go out and search in the garden and remind yourself of the natural resources that are there, in these times of recession be thankful for what we have in our own back yards, this was made on St.Georges day, so consider it a tribute to the best of British..

In getting ready for and looking for the premises for the restaurant these are my thoughts of the food I would love to be able to create on a daily basis to serve there, soon we will hopefully be in a position to start the ball rolling and hopefully cook simply like this everyday..


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful dish.....I wish I could have tried some

grub said...

Thank you.. St. George's Day Salad!! Was very tasty

Pappa Cod said...

Excellent... knocks my planned sausages and jacket potato for six... will look forward to seeing more food like this in the restaurant.

foodbin said...

When the asparagus snapped easily, it's means tender and young-love the huge crab and what a combination of textures and flavors!

Unknown said...

Looks amazing! I hope I will be able to visit your restaurant someday. Keep creating!

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