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Recipes to cook in May

10 recipes to cook in May

by Great British Chefs 01 May 2019

The first real promise of summer arrives in May, and all those delicious greens that start to emerge in April hit their stride, along with some other summer favourites. Tash Crawford looks at what to cook to celebrate those ingredients.


With April showers out of the way, May is the first chance we get to really start looking forward to a lovely British summer of al fresco dining. Many of April’s best ingredients – asparagus and Jersey Royals to name a couple – continue abundantly into May, and they’re joined by a wave of new greenery.

The humble pea often leads the charge into May as the harbinger of summer. We’re slightly inclined to take peas for granted these days, but summer peas are a beloved chef's ingredient – they provide beautiful sweetness and a bright pop of colour to a dish. Broad beans – although more plentiful later in the year – start to appear in May too, and are worth the trouble of double-podding for their delicate flavour.

British Tomato Week has evolved into British Tomato Fortnight this year, and starts officially on 20 May – have a hunt around beforehand and you’ll find decent greenhouse tomatoes, but as summer starts to find its feet, juicy outdoor varieties will become available too. Who said you can’t get good tomatoes in the UK?

Keep an eye out for crab – often at its best in May – and as a special treat, fresh almonds should be available too, although they’re often hard to find and the season is extremely short (happy hunting). For more inspiration on what to cook throughout the month, take a look at some of our favourite seasonal recipes below.

1. Ricotta with organic peas, broad beans and gremolata

Tom Aikens’ dish is everything we love about early summer – simple, fresh and vibrant. The combination of peas, broad beans, cheese and lemon is nothing new, but there are little touches of invention all over the plate that bring this dish to life, like the gorgeous, glossy lemon emulsion and a punchy herb gremolata. This is the sort of dish that benefits massively from quality ingredients and respectful cooking – if you allow your ingredients to shine, you’ll find this starter is far more than the sum of its parts.

2. Sous vide pork belly, pea tartare, onions

Paul Foster has forged a reputation for intelligent flavour combinations and precise cookery, and his pork belly and pea tartare dish is a great example of that. There are lots of processes involved here, but the results are more than worth the effort if you have the time to plan ahead. Paul spends two days prepping his meat – first he cures the pork belly in salt and then cooks it sous vide, before pressing it to retain the perfect texture and flavour. The rest of the dish can be finished off in the space of an hour – fresh peas are blanched and stirred through a tartare sauce for extra sweetness, and he garnishes with crispy shallot rings, charred Roscoff onions and grelot onions.

3. Pappardelle with shaved asparagus, broad beans, marjoram and pea purée

Geoffrey Smeddle’s pappardelle recipe is another dish that’s perfect for the height of spring, bringing together peas, broad beans and asparagus for an explosion of vibrant green on the plate. This recipe is about freshness above all else – the broad beans and asparagus tips are gently blanched, whilst the asparagus ribbons are left raw for texture and flavour. The pea purée has a dash of cream, but it makes for a luxurious, silky pasta sauce, and he finishes things off with a generous shaving of Parmesan on top.

4. New potatoes with bacon, samphire and broad beans

One of the best things about May is that it opens a door to a whole world of easy, comforting recipes. Galton Blackiston’s potato salad pulls together a collection of delicious ingredients – bacon, samphire, poached eggs and Jersey Royals – to make the sort of dish we could eat twice a day everyday. He gently boils his potatoes, then gradually assembles the dish in a single pan, caramelising onions and garlic with bacon, then adding potatoes and samphire to finish off the mixture, topping the dish off with a simple poached egg.

5. King crab with squid ink garganelle

Luke Holder’s squid ink garganelle looks complex, but it’s actually very achievable, and a fantastic way to wow your dinner guests. A little squid ink in your pasta dough will go a long way – you can buy it from your fishmonger – adding a natural salinity as well as giving your pasta a striking jet black hue. Once you’ve made your pasta, the sauce is simple – freshly cooked crabmeat, butter, lemon and herbs. Stir through your pasta and you have a perfect way to enjoy fresh crab. Serving it in a crab shell is, of course, optional.

6. Charred mackerel with tomato ceviche

When you find great tomatoes, the last thing you want to do is start cooking them down. Fresh, juicy, ripe tomatoes are one of the greatest joys of summer, and they’re available in May if you’re willing to look for them. Robert Thompson’s dish makes the most of fresh tomatoes, marinating them in lime and coriander and serving them alongside a beautiful piece of grilled mackerel.

7. Poached apricots with honey ice cream and fresh almonds

Fresh almonds have an incredibly short season and can be a pain to prepare, but they’re well worth seeking out – the soft, creamy, nutty flavour goes particularly well with stone fruits, as Phil Howard shows with his poached apricot dessert. Phil poaches his apricots in an indulgent mix of Sauternes wine, chamomile and acacia honey, and whips up an acacia honey ice cream to go with it, finishing with fresh almonds.

8. Braised gem lettuce with Jersey Royals

Anna Tobias makes use of two of this month’s most coveted vegetables to produce this superbly springtime dish; Jersey Royals and lettuce. By braising the baby gems, the familiar crunchy texture is replaced by one more silky – combined with the buttery potatoes and rich lardons this makes for a comforting, refreshing plate of food. This dish will happily hold its own as a main thanks to the richness of the concentrated stock, but also works well as a side complementing meat or fish - although you may want to remove the bacon.

9. Tempura spring onions with onion purée

Spring onions rarely appear centre stage in dishes – they’re normally confined to minor garnishing roles – but Rob Howell proves that the humble scallion is more than worthy of its own spotlight with this beautiful allium-focused dish. The crispiest of tempuras is ensured by the addition of ice cubes to the batter, which also created a satisfying eruption of bubbles when they're submerged into the oil. Rob provides some textural contrast with the also oft-overlooked white onion, plated in two forms – as a smooth purée and an intensely flavoured powder that acts to season the dish.

10. Rhubarb fool

Forced rhubarb commandeers a lot of attention in February and March, but now it’s normal rhubarb’s turn in the spotlight and Tom Aikens' fool recipe allows it to do just that. Fool (which got its name not because it takes one to make it but because the word originates from the French word fouler – ‘to mash’) it is a famously quick pud to piece together. The rhubarb is stewed briefly before being gently swirled through whipped cream and served alongside some sponge fingers, keeping everything light and dainty. This is a foolproof recipe for even the most discerning of dessert chefs, if you pardon the pun.

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