You don’t hear much talk about it these days, but the ‘hungry gap’ is a long-standing description of the period between mid April and early June when British farms have finished the winter crops, but aren’t yet ready with the Spring ones. It is traditionally the time of year when the quantity and variety of food is at its lowest, which can seem very strange when the sun is shining, and the trees are greening up before our eyes.
Generally, it gets hidden from us by the 365 day/5 continent sourcing efforts of our supermarkets, which basically enable us to buy what we want, when we want it. The UK is also a leading player in the new practise of ‘vertical farming’ , where food such as herbs, lettuces and tomatoes are grown indoors, in vertical layers, with artificially controlled conditions and enhanced soil structures.
But here at Dexam, we are increasingly fans of keeping ‘food miles’ as low as they can be, which means trying to buy food that has been grown or raised as close to you as possible, even if it means saying a temporary ‘goodbye’ to some favoured foods until they are back in season. Above all, if we can, we try to avoid foods that have had to travel in an aeroplane to get to us.
This leads to us spending a little more time researching what food is around, before we do our weekly shops, and then to the delight of learning new recipes that are driven by availability, and not something we saw on TV.
And hungry gap or not, there are some wonderful home-grown foods out there right now. Here’s a few examples:
Strawberries. These get earlier and earlier, but supermarkets are now full of British varieties. Do some homework before you buy them, as some are a lot juicier and more flavourful than others. Hull, cut in half, sprinkle lightly with sugar and then leave for an hour before eating. Pure joy.
If you can, find a local supplier who can guarantee freshness and tenderness. Cut the woody bottoms off, then steam (never boil!) in a small amount of water. For a change, shave parmesan on to the warm asparagus, instead of butter. Eat on their own as a starter, not as an accompaniment.
Beetroot. The king of root vegetables. Here’s two ideas. Thinly slice and use to replace potatoes in a traditional dauphinoise for a complete delight. Or shred, and add into a curry where you might normally put in a load of tinned tomatoes.
Marrow. Slice in two, longways, and then hollow out and fill with lamb mince and herbs for an exquisite and easy family supper. Easy on the pocket, too.
Jersey Royals. Sometimes over-rated, and you need to be very careful to make sure that you are getting the real thing. But if you get the right ones, simply boil, and serve warm with some balled melon pieces, and a dressing for the supreme demonstration of the potato’s art!
Hope that this has given you some great ideas for the next fortnight of meals.