In season: March

What's in season: March

by Sally Abé 1 March 2019

The first few signs of spring are beginning to show themselves, but we've still got a little time to wait. Sally Abé tells us what seasonal treats we can eat in the meantime.

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After a five-year stint in the kitchen at two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, Sally is now head chef at The Harwood Arms in London.

When Sally came to London to cook as part of her culinary arts degree, she never went back to college in Sheffield.

Sally began her career at the Savoy Grill, before moving on to a two year stint at Gordon Ramsay's Claridges restaurant. After this, she spent five years at two-Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury as sous chef.

Sally is now the head chef at the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms in London, where she makes the most of Britain's fantastic game meat and seasonal produce.

March is a bit of an intermittent month. Everyone is waiting for the full bounty of produce that arrives with spring, but it’s still early enough in the year to feel the heels of winter in the air. However, the past few months have been much milder than usual, which has resulted in a few spring favourites cropping up earlier than previous years.

One of these ingredients is wild garlic (or ramsons), which is now growing in woodlands all over the UK – you should be able to smell the flowers if you’re near some. Pick the flowers and use them to flavour anything from sauces (like Pete Biggs does with his Breaded hake, asparagus and wild garlic sauce) to pestos (as found in this recipe from Food Urchin).

The first stalks of asparagus are beginning to appear in places like the Wye Valley, but it’s best to wait a few more weeks until they really start to taste their best. In the meantime, stock up on the last of this year’s purple sprouting broccoli, one of the only British-grown greens you can find in the supermarket at the moment. Serve it as a side like Josh Eggleton, who throws in some crunchy hazelnuts in his recipe, or take a leaf out of Simon Hulstone’s book by pairing it with pork belly and apple purée. Dominic Chapman uses it to add an earthy note to halibut with wild mushrooms, while Emily Watkins uses the florets as a bed for her delicious lamb loin.

British-grown chicory is a good choice at this time of year. It’s cultivated in the same way as forced rhubarb – grown in the dark over three weeks – and adds a welcome burst of bitter freshness to seasonal dishes. Try Paul Foster’s brilliantly simple Stilton and chicory salad, or for something more complex, Steve Drake’s Chicory braised in Meantime IPA with pickled peach.

British fruit is still pretty scarce during March, but the aforementioned rhubarb is still going strong. It begins to disappear after April, so make the most of it while you still can. Showcase the shocking pink colour of rhubarb with Tom Aikens’ Rhubarb fool or James Mackenzie’s Liquorice panna cotta with Yorkshire rhubarb and parkin crumbs, or use it to add a piquant element to savoury dishes, like in Xavier Boyer’s Pressed duck foie gras with rhubarb and pistachios. Dominic Chapman keeps things traditional with his Apple and rhubarb crumble, while Graham Hornigold brings a classic into the twenty-first century with his deceptively simple sounding Rhubarb and custard.

If rhubarb isn’t your thing, then more tropical fruits from further afield like bananas and kiwi fruits are particularly good at the moment. A simple Banana bread or Phil Howard’s incredible fruit salad will highlight the flavours beautifully.

The end of March sees us start to think about Easter (although it's quite late in April this year), and all the traditional foods associated with the holiday. Lamb is usually the roast of choice for Easter Sunday, but the majority of British new season lamb isn’t ready until May. There are a few rare breeds from the south of the country available to buy, such as Poll Dorsets or Dorset Horns, but why not give hogget or mutton a go? The meat is seeing a flurry of interest from top chefs at the moment thanks to its depth of flavour – Nigel Haworth cooks using the loin, while Adam Gray makes a suet pudding after slow-cooking the meat.

If you’re craving seafood, then try to get your hands on some razor clams. They’re a little more exotic compared to the usual suspects on the fish counter, but are found throughout British waters in March. Their name comes from the cutthroat razor shape of their shells, but the meat within is incredibly sweet and delicate. They only need very little prep and are best eaten with nothing more than salt, lemon and parsley. Learn how to grill, steam or even sous vide them, or try these more advanced recipes from Adam Byatt and Nathan Outlaw.