Springtime yields a fresh wave of new seasonal vegetables to brighten our menus. As we finally shake off the last of the winter blues, fields, kitchen gardens and hedgerows are a hive of activity, inspiring chefs to introduce new dishes that are packed with a rainbow of colour and flavour. From starters to main courses, hors d’oeuvres to desserts, discover how chefs across the country are working hard in their kitchens to give spring vegetables centre stage and celebrate the turning of the seasons.
Alex Navarro, Executive Chef, Maray
I look forward to Asparagus season at the end of April/beginning of May. We’re very lucky as we have Formby asparagus grown on our doorstep here on Merseyside. We develop a lot of vegetable dishes & have amassed a big following because of it. They are front and centre of all of our menus! This summer the humble swede will make an appearance and for dessert we have carrot cake as well as sweet potato doughnuts featuring on our specials board.
Our famous Disco Cauliflower is our best seller, which is cauliflower cooked until the florets begin to caramelise and then covered in tahini, harissa, yoghurt, chermoula and finished with flaked almonds and pomegranate – closely followed by our falafel, hummus & tabouleh, sweet potato with tahini and date molasses, and our braised rice with Ormskirk kale.
Paul Abela, Chef, Mount Hall Bupa Care Home
Many chefs will tell you Spring is their favourite season as it’s the best time for selecting fresh, crisp vegetables. One of my favourite dishes to cook with seasonal spring vegetables is a starter, asparagus with slow roasted tomatoes. The dish consists of asparagus which is griddle cooked to bring out the best flavour. This is served on a bed of rocket with slow roasted tomatoes drizzled with a balsamic syrup to complement their sweetness. The delicious dish is finished with shaved parmesan cheese, which goes well with the asparagus.
The dish has always been very popular with our care home residents and is really adaptable – working well when served with spring lamb, chicken, or steak. Versatile and fresh ingredients are the key to good nutrition, which is so important for the elderly, contributing to their overall good health and wellbeing.
Tania Burton, Managing Director, Ginger Snap
Asparagus is traditionally in season from St George’s Day, 23rd April, until summer solstice, 21st June. Asparagus is so delicious and serving it simply blanched with a soft poached egg and lashings of butter and a sprinkling of sea salt is best with such a fantastic ingredient. I am a strong believer in overindulging whilst in season so you have had enough by the time the season is over and can wait another year for the season again.
Being in the events industry we cannot just put something on the menu like a restaurant. This spring we are launching a spring vegetable broth with beautiful asparagus, radishes and new season peas poached in butter, with shavings of sweet baby beetroot and lots of fresh herbs from the garden. There isn’t one best selling vegetarian dish for us. We plan our menus with dishes for the majority of the guests and then we plan a vegetarian option to complement the style of the main menu.
We forage for a lot of wild herbs in the spring such as wild garlic, wood sorrel, chickweed, hairy bittercress, hawthorn flowers. St George’s mushrooms are also perfect in the spring. A perfect vegan dish for the spring is our 21 ingredient salad using lots of foraged herbs and flowers with a beautiful grainy mustard dressing.
Stefano Camplone, Head Chef, Barge East
Szechuan Aubergine is a vegan main on my seasonal menus and guest favourite, I love the juxtaposition of sweet vs savoury flavours. Szechuan peppers paired with an XO sauce brings spicy notes and Asian flavours to the dish, complemented by a smooth cashew cream and earthy undertones from shitake mushrooms and furikake.
I’m lucky to have Hackney marshes close by to me, the marshes offer plenty of spring produce, a particular favourite of mine is elderflower amongst other spring flowers & berries. An endless resource of produce and inspiration for dishes, they enable my chefs and I to forage yearly, last year we picked over 5 kilos of elderflower which we used to make vinegar, cordials, syrups and more to enrich dishes. I work closely with our gardener to manage and plan the 37+ different types of produce growing in our on-site edible gardens, while composting and harvesting smartly across the seasons. I always source produce from British farms between London and Sussex for the best quality produce available on the markets, while supporting small ethical and sustainable growers.
Peter Evans, UK & Ireland Marketing Manager, Lamb Weston
There’s no simpler way for operators to serve tasty plant-based dishes than with the UK’s favourite side dish – chips! Elevated to hero from side of plate, chips can be served loaded as a main dish or sharer.
Natively-grown food is in demand by climate-conscious consumers who happily pay more for locally sourced products. The Dukes of Chippingdom are cut from 100% British potatoes, so operators can promote their Britishness on menus; available in skin-off and skin-on varieties, they’re an amazing base to create endless inventive dishes with, tapping into global flavours.
Try ‘Twerky Jerky Dukes & Sheese’; toss fried chips with spicy jerk mix, place in a dish, top with vegan cheese and bake for three minutes. Finish with pineapple mayo, jerk sauce, coriander and spring onions.
Kim Kaewkraikhot, Owner and Head Chef, Chaophraya
Our hero vegetarian dish here at Chaophraya is our Pumpkin Thai Red Curry. Made with fresh red chillies, galangal (similar to ginger), cumin, coriander root and lemongrass, this flavoursome curry is the perfect option for those looking for something substantial.
The vegetable and protein-rich dish uses Thai pumpkin and our customers love how incredibly tasty and creamy this recipe is, despite it being completely plant-based. The dish delivers a sweet and ‘melt in the mouth’ style texture, stemming from cooking over a longer period of time. We recommend pairing it with Jasmine rice and garnishing it with aromatic Thai Basil and pumpkin seeds for a true taste of Thailand.