In our new ‘Market Haul of Fame’ series we sneak a peek into the shopping baskets of some Sydney’s leading chefs and food personalities. This week, former stallholder Alex Herbert from Bird Cow Fish has chosen some delicious spring produce from the market.
Fresh curd cheese
I always have a tub of soft curd cheese in my fridge as a quick and easy addition to uplift salads, omelettes and sandwiches or to have with fresh vegetables as a snack. They should be fresh and clean on the palate with a smooth texture and a good balance of sweet, slightly salty and acidic.
However, it is during spring that the cheese develops an extra lovely greener sweetness from the fresh pastures. It’s their sweet and slightly acidic qualities that make it perfect for both savoury and dessert dishes. I will often add a spoonful of fresh goat’s curd cheese to finish a vegetable pasta sauce and it is sumptuous as a filling for ravioli if you have the inclination.
When it comes to dessert fresh goat’s curd makes the most wonderful cheesecake.
Globe artichokes should be eaten young and fresh before the outer petals/ leaves (Bracts) become loose and tough. Select Globe Artichokes which have tightly packed Bracts and which are heavy. The smaller the Globe Artichoke the more tender the leaves however they have less heart than the larger ones.
It is useful to wear gloves when preparing Globe Artichokes as their uncooked bitter juices can taint your hands and impart unpleasant flavours to other foods that you may be handling.
A great vegetable to pickle to prolong the delights of the season however I usually just braise in a stock (Barigole of artichokes) and eat within a few days. One of my favourite dishes is simply halved poached artichokes topped with a mixture of sourdough breadcrumbs, butter and parmesan lightly grilled and served with a lemon wedge.
Try Alex’s recipe for Poached Globe Artichokes here.
There are only two ways to eat mushrooms. Either very fresh or dried.
The very fresh mushrooms still have their high water content and should be firm and slightly shiny on their surface. They should not be washed in water to remove any clinging peat but instead wiped with a damp cloth or brush and stored in a paper bag in the fridge. Any trimmings can be added to stocks and sauces.
Mushrooms almost have an umami, meaty flavour when fresh which becomes even more accentuated when dried. I often use fresh mushrooms as if they were a protein in place of meat both for texture and flavour. Who doesn’t like a stuffed whole flat cap mushroom?
Mushroom soup is perfect for the colder spring days but when the sun is shining and the wind is warm I like to make a mushroom salad from the Button or Cup mushrooms. I slice the cleaned mushrooms very finely, season well and then macerate for several minutes in a little lemon juice or chardonnay vinegar before mixing through the best herbs spring has to offer. Finely chopped chives, dill, parsley, tarragon, garlic and finishing with extra virgin olive oil.
I just love broad beans not only for their flavour and texture but for their pertinacity to really stick to Spring as their prime growing season.
To peel or not to peel? I like to choose the smaller pods and after removing the beans from the pods, if very small they can be eaten raw with just salt, pepper and olive oil or blanched very briefly and refreshed in iced water and added to salads, pureed to make a dip or tossed through fresh pasta with loads of parsley, garlic, lemon and again salt, pepper and olive oil.
Even the larger beans if from very fresh pods do not require double peeling but I do cook these for a little longer. I might make a soffritto base of onion, garlic and fresh chopped tomatoes cooked out in olive oil with some butter and then add the beans to stew until softened. Perfect with roast spring lamb.
Zucchini blossoms are delicious simply dipped in a batter and deep fried, sliced thinly and added to an omelette and they are natures perfect parcel for stuffing although their fragility requires some care. Although edible I prefer to remove the pistils from the female blossoms and the stamen from the male blossoms before cooking. To do this I use my fish tweezers which cause less damage to the blossom.
The female blossoms are attached to the small zucchini fruit which I keep attached to the blossom, but when quite fat I cut from the base into strands so that they will cook more evenly. The male blossoms are attached to a long thin stem only, so are a little less work.
Due to their fragility I tend to make a soft stuffing which can be easily piped into the blossom. Ricotta, soft goat’s curd with salt, pepper, lemon zest and fresh herbs is simple and delicious.
It’s a post market treat to eat Carmel and John’s super fresh blossoms from Zavaglia Fresh produce stuffed and pan fried on toast.