The Blog



Wednesday 15th March 2017

Spring is on the horizon and when I close my eyes I can almost convince myself it's actually here. The sharp, winter freshness in the air has been slowly ebbed away by a warming presence of good things to come. I can always tell, as when I'm out running in the bitterness of winter I can only just make out the countryside smells, it's almost as though they have been turned to stone. The pungent horse and cow manure, cut grasses and earthy aromas are permeating in the air now that I gasp for and it fills me with such excitement!

The first dog walk of the year without a coat is always a corner turned and a deep comfort of the basic human instinct of "Yes, I survived another winter!" emerges from my thoughts. I notice flies and budding blooms, realising the early mornings are no longer filled with a hanging silence that only seems to make the air feel colder. Birds are up and singing and I am up and smiling.

I probably do suffer a little from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - a persistent low mood, irritability that could only be described as a demonic rage that seems to progress to new levels in the darkened mornings and evenings. I feel a profound tiredness of living in the harshness of artificial lighting and sense a growing despair as the bleak views of bare trees rip the last of the summer memories from me.

Don't get me wrong, I do embrace the winter period with an initial positive stride and tell myself "I will get through this one, mood intact". I plan to enjoy the season's activities of Christmas, holidays and parties. I also look forward to all the winter produce that summer takes from us; the leeks, leafy greens, turnip, cauliflower, sprouting broccoli and chokes and I'm excited by building new recipes and flavours.

And then I hit a wall. The carbohydrate craving comes in, to fuel me with a comfort I can't find from the gloom of short days and long nights. The jolly "ho ho ho" of Christmas morphs in to a "no no no" at yet another Christmas chocolate and my momentum of eating well begins to feel a little shaky as the weeks drag on. It's hard!

But, I'm sitting here with my first proper bag of spring greens, relieved. I love green vegetables and have many happy memories of a once vibrant in colour, totally death-cooked pile of them on my plate as a child. Not much nutrition left I imagine, but there was an unknown pleasure at the time, of scraping up the buttery, salt laden leaves with an equally soft, buttery mashed potato. My bag of spring greens won't quite be getting that treatment but I'm always heartened and inspired by my own food memories.

It doesn't take long for the spirits to lift as I wash and slice. I am provoked by a nostalgic image of my Mum's steak and kidney pie, singing blackbird intact and Laurel and Hardy on the record player, singing "Trail of The Lonesome Pine". Happiness was at that table back then and I aim to continue this theme with my own Spring Menu.

I've decided to treat my greens to an experience my own small family may look back at with similar affection (also not known at the time I would imagine!). Shredded and washed, ready to go, I grab a few more ingredients that my mum and dad would never have used! The root ginger and garlic comes out, mushrooms, sesame seeds and spring onions. Bottle of toasted sesame oil and dark soy sauce, sorted. Oh, and a good handful of cooked brown basmati, spelt, barley, quinoa or any other grain that may be lurking.

Get the sesame seeds toasted in a wok/saucepan, remove. Add a splash of oil/coconut oil and cook the mushrooms, remove. Add a bit of grated ginger, crushed garlic and all the greens. Stir until wilted. Add the rice/grains, some sliced spring onion, put the mushrooms back in the pan with a splash of soy and sesame oil and heat through. Top with the sesame seeds.

I love the simplicity of this; the ginger flavor with the greens and garlic feels warm but fresh at the same time. I won't be asking my Dad round for dinner for this one though! I've added a simple grilled protein to this before and have served it on it's own too as a quick lunch. It's been packed up and taken to work and it's been adapted to take chilli and a "pulled" duck, simmered in a broth of star anise and Five Spice.

As I dish up, I feel thankful. We survived Christmas and the avalanche of goodies that arrived, I was able to keep the momentum of good eating going and now that spring has arrived, it will all be easier! The Vitamin D supplements can perhaps go back in the drawer now and I can try to erase that habit of waking up dog tired everyday for the past months.

I hope you can join me, rejoicing in the up and coming "spring out of bed" in the morning, being drawn out from beneath the duvet by a real, proper light, from a sky only offering possibilities. I will be looking forward to the joy of eating outside again, with a wine cocktail anticipation and super salad stupor. More importantly, I will pack as many exhilarating, thought provoking, memory making activities as I can in to these up and coming warm months, beavering a way like a squirrel, knowing that this memory store will be the fuel I will I need to see me through the next Winter!