Produce report: April 3
Weather issues, unfortunately, are keeping the price of green veges up and there are hikes with cauliflowers, aubergines (at least in supermarkets) and avocados too. On a brighter note, capsicums are good buying.
Although you can find them all year round, the main season for this relative of the tomato and potato is from January until April so there’s still time to get your fill. Try slow cooking an assortment of peppers to make them even sweeter. Kathy Paterson serves hers as a bed for pan-fried fish but a nice lamb chop or steak would be tasty too. Here’s how she does it to serve 4 as a side dish: Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add 1 thinly sliced onion and cook very gently until soft, about 10 minutes. Add 3 cloves thinly sliced garlic and 1 deseeded and finely chopped chilli and cook for a further minute. Add 2 red peppers and 2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced into long thin strips, and 4 large, sliced ripe tomatoes, skins and cores removed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook over a low heat for 35-40 minutes until the peppers are very soft. Remove the lid for about 5 minutes before the end of cooking if there is too much liquid.
Back in the supermarket, courgettes, although not as cheap as in the middle of summer, are still affordable and plentiful and brussels sprouts are in good supply too. Look for lovely bunches of baby carrots.
In the spirit of nose-to-tail eating, remember to save the pretty lacy tops. The stalks can be tough - it’s the frilly leaves you want. Try sauteeing them with olive oil and garlic, add them raw to stock or whizz them into a pesto. The baby carrots themselves are great added with local in-season parsnips in Delaney Mes’ Middle Eastern-inspired baby root vegetables with smoked paprika yoghurt.
Sweetcorn is finishing this month and supply is dwindling as the weather cools. It’s the same story with stonefruit. We can’t complain; the quality of all has been good this summer.
New-season braeburns join the great variety of apples in produce bins now. These excellent keepers were named after the Braeburn Orchard in Nelson in the 1950s where they were first grown commercially. They are believed to have come from a seedling of a lady hamilton apple crossed with a granny smith which would explain braeburn’s wide appeal – sweet but tart, the apple of choice for those of us who don’t want too much sugariness or too airy a crunch.
If you’ve got plenty of thyme and sage in the garden you may want to freeze these for later too. The season for both ends in April. Because it is woody, thyme is added at the start of cooking and it freezes well in snaplock bags (no need to pull the leaves off the stems). With sage, pull off the leaves, chop them and pop about 1 Tbsp into ice cube trays. Fill with water and freeze. Remove frozen cubes to a snaplock bag and when you want to use them, add them directly to soups or stews. Let the cube dissolve and strain away the liquid if you don’t want the water in the dish too.