A heatwave strikes - Burnt noses, bare (white) legs, and wide smiles. The first of this year's barbecues are lit, Mr Whippy vans are on sell-out, and salads are served instead of soup at Books For Cooks. I can't help but get excited about this unexpected burst of summer in the middle of spring.
But the best thing about this time of year is the incoming gems on the market - and there is no grumbling worry that they're going to disappear with the rain at the end of the week. It's time for asparagus, watercress, sorrel and spring greens. Green, light and full of flavour.
Just like the way we Britons get giddy at the sight of sun, the sight of new veg sends me potty. I buy as much as I can. It's reckless, perhaps, but fun, and trying to make use of it all, to love every leaf, makes for happy friends and a happy kitchen.
This tart is salty, buttery and moreish. The savoy cabbage and leeks bring a fresh brightness to the plate, and the crispy chorizo pushes forward a flavour of a hopeful hot summer ahead. Eat with a warm watercress, pea and mint salad, drizzled with tart lemon and olive oil.
LEEK, SAVOY CABBAGE & SAGE TART WITH CHORIZO
shortcrust pastry for 9 in quiche tin (best to use a loose-base tin)
180g plain flour, sifted pinch salt 90g cold butter, cubed 1 free-range egg yolk 2 tbsps water
1 free range egg and 2 free-range egg yolks 170ml double cream (half creme fraiche works well too) 2 tbsps freshly grated Parmesan salt and pepper large knob of butter 1/2 leek, thinly sliced 1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded 3 sage leaves 3 tbsps cream cheese (optional) knob of Catalan chorizo 5x3cm, thinly sliced into rounds (if veggie or want a meat-free option, toast pine nuts and sprinkle on top of the tart)
Butter the tin and place in the fridge.
Rub together the sifted flour, salt and butter lightly with your fingers until you reach a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the egg and water and bind into a soft ball of dough. Do not knead too much; the lighter the dough the better.
On a floured table, roll out the pastry to fit the tin to around 2cm thick. Cut the excess from the edge of the tin, being aware that the pastry will shrink.
Once placed in the tin, leave to cool in the fridge for at least an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes if short for time. Pastry works best when cold.
Preheat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/ Gas 5.
When the pastry has been in the fridge for a while, fill the base with ceramic beans. If you have none, dried pasta or beans will do - you don't want the base of the pastry to start rising. Place the pastry in the oven for 10 minutes. After this time, remove the weights and put back in the oven to brown the pastry, and cook for another 10 minutes until golden.
Meanwhile, mix the eggs, cream and grated cheese in a jug and season with salt and pepper.
Melt the knob of butter in the pan and braise the leeks and cabbage together until soft. Throw in the sage and chorizo to crisp up. (This would be a good time to toast the pine nuts).
Take the pastry out of the oven and arrange the leeks and cabbage around the base, leaving the chorizo aside. Pour over the egg mixture. If using cream cheese dollop a few spoonfuls over the egg and put back in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Half way through cooking, scatter on the chorizo.
When cooked and golden, leave to cool slightly in the tin. Then lift it out on to a plate and serve with the pea salad.
Quick to whip up, blooming gorgeous to look at, and irresistibly scrumptious to eat.
RASPBERRY AND ALMOND FLAPJACKS
makes about 20
150g salted butter 5 large tbsps set honey 80g golden caster sugar 250g jumbo porridge oats 100g raspberries 50g toasted flaked almonds
dried rose petals to decorate
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas mark 6.
Line a small, shallow baking tray with baking parchment and set aside.
Melt the butter, honey and sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low and gently stir in the oats. Remove from the heat and add the raspberries. Stir them through. You want them to break up slightly so the flavour melts through the oats. Mix in the almonds.
Spread the oat mix onto the to baking parchment and pat it down so that the oats are compact. Place in the hot oven for 15 minutes, or until the flapjacks are golden brown. If the edges start to burn, don't panic! Trim them off and sprinkle over natural yogurt, or use in a crumble topping.
Slice the jacks with a sharp knife as soon as they come out of the oven so they are soft to cut, then leave them to cool on a wire rack.
Very good with a pot of tea, or if you are picnicking in the park, they taste even better alongside a cheeky bottle of elderflower cider!