Spring is springing, well it is trying to at least! We go from shorts to jumpers within the day here at the moment! Sunday we were barbecuing on the beach, basking in the sunshine, then the following day, wrapping up in winter layers and lighting the fires! This jumping around of the temperature not only confuses us but the vegetables too that are trying hard to grow despite the stop/start weather!
That said this morning at the market we began to see some of the spring fruits and vegetables that I have been yearning for – asparagus, gariguette strawberries, new season spinach, fennel, artichokes, courgettes and radishes. The courgettes are perhaps still a little bitter, if we get plenty of sun I reckon they will have sweetened up by next week. However the rest was looking fresh and healthy.
Radishes here are plentiful and at this time of year, whilst there is plenty of rain and the soil is moist, the radishes are big, crunchy and juicy. Later on when it gets hotter and drier the radishes will be smaller and spicier. When buying radishes always look at the leaves too, try to choose a bunch that has fresh, green leaves as that way you can use them for making a very tasty pesto. If they have turned yellow, or are tired looking then they are only good for the compost bin!
I decant the pesto into several small pots and freeze them so that I always have plenty to hand. It can be used as a dip, to make up salad dressings, as a base for tarts or pizzas, for a quick and easy pasta supper, stirred into soups, with grilled fish or lamb chops!!
1 bunch of radish leaves, pick out any wilted/yellow leaves and discard
I large handful of fresh coriander
1 large handful of rocket
2 fresh garlic cloves
1 small spring onion
zest and juice of half a lemon
1 handful of whole almonds (skins on)
1 – 2 tbsp roughly chopped or grated pecorino cheese (to taste)
1 – 2 tbsp quality olive oil ( the best you have as it really makes a difference)
seasoning to taste
Wash thoroughly the radish leaves, they will probably be very gritty, and spin dry in a salad spinner along with the rocket and coriander leaves. Put into a food processor along with the garlic, spring onion, lemon zest and juice, almonds and cheese. Blitz for several minutes and then drizzle in the olive oil until you have a paste like consistency, roughly around 2 tablespoons, soap down and blitz again. Taste and adjust the seasoning, you probably won’t want any additional salt and depending on the bitterness of the leaves add more or less pecorino.
Alternatives: this is a very flexible pesto and can be adapted to whatever you have around and is in season, they key is to use the freshest of ingredients possible as any tiredness will be exaggerated.
The rocket can be omitted or replaced with young spinach leaves, in the summer replace the coriander with basil and mint. I happened to have some confit de citron so used a slice of that instead of a fresh lemon. Of course the almonds can be replaced with the more traditional pine nuts but they are not local to me here so are one hugely expensive and two I am very fearful of “dysgeusia” and what that might do to my palate and so tend to avoid them unless I am comfortable with the source!
This is very herby, slightly bitter and packs a tangy punch so requires an aromatic wine with depth that won’t be fazed but equally won’t try and fight with all those flavours! I would try it with Mas Champart’s IGP Pays D’Oc from Saint Chinian. A delicious blend of Terret ( a local variety enjoying a come back!) and Grenache Gris, unctuous with a mineral freshness.