SPRING INTO SEASONAL FOOD
It’s great to finally break into spring with its longer days and brighter, warmer weather (hopefully). Phil Keenan finds out what it means to chef patron Maurizio Bocchi and his wife Cinzia at La Locanda. Photography: Sewellshouse.co.uk
As well as the weather, spring also heralds a new season for the produce that’s available and the addition of some new, seasonal dishes on the menu at La Locanda.
Over recent years, the seasons have taken somewhat of a backseat, where fresh produce is concerned, and year-round availability of most things is almost taken for granted. In fact, a BBC poll recently revealed that fewer than one in 10 Brits are aware when our most well-known fruit and vegetables are in season.
What does it matter?
In Italy, eating seasonally means that you’re enjoying the ingredients at the height of their flavour and agri-chef Maurizio adheres to this Italian food tradition wherever possible. This passion goes back to his childhood, where, growing up in his native home of Lake Maggiore, he would go out foraging in the woods, with his grandmother, and very much look forward to the seasonally changing produce they’d find.
Around this time of year, they’d collect wild nettles, a common sight that’s largely overlooked here in the UK and known more for a painful sting rather than for its culinary uses. In Italy, however, nettles are widely used in a variety of dishes – they are used in pesto instead of basil, and added to potatoes to make a green and particularly tasty gnocchi. It can also make a colourful pasta and a delicious filling for ravioli. Nowadays, being a good distance from Lake Maggiore, Maurizio gets his supply of nettles from local farm and organic meat supplier, Gazegill Organics. These, he says, are wonderfully perfumed and exceptionally good quality.
Tasty, healthy and free, this is the perfect time of year if you fancy giving nettles a try for yourself. When foraging for nettles, collect them away from roadsides and carefully pick the top four leaves of each plant (where all the plants energy is). Be warned, like spinach, you’ll need a lot of nettle leaves to make a worthwhile amount to eat. Once collected you can treat them like many other leaf vegetables. Blanching or boiling them will remove the sting and they’re great to use in dishes like Sag Aloo or risotto.
If you’re interested to know more about the foods that are in season just now, visit www.eattheseasons.co.uk. If you’d like to eat delicious, authentic and ready prepared food that’s in season just now, you can visit La Locanda!
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