Before we start…spare a thought for and fondly remember the staples that pulled us through another winter. Every year, as autumn recedes, we fight against the need to switch the menus to winter mode, reluctant to give up the last suggestion of sun heat. Out the other end, when the evenings begin to stretch and the daffodils are teasing the weatherman, the urge returns to sprinkle some sunshine on the menu. March comes along, we get anxious about the menu. The sun peeks out one weekend, temperatures soar, panic sets in. Easter comes and goes, April arrives, temperatures revert to horrorshow winter, daffodils collapse and give up in indignant confusion. Still, the evenings get longer, technically it is Spring, and the fretting grows. Ah, to hell with it, we’re going all Spring. Bunny rabbits, yellow chicks and fluffy lambs. No, we’re not serving those, just channeling the energy. Sort of. In Paradiso, it’s more sprouting broccoli, rhubarb, wild garlic, wood sorrel and a couple of heads of spring cabbage. Not so much boing!, more low-level sedate giddiness.
The thing is that while the momentum is all about moving out of winter and getting on with the lighter, bouncier (er, fluffier?) flavours and colours, you get really fond of those winter dishes. They tend to be around for almost five months and about a month into that, they seem so perfectly of their time and place in a way that the other seasons are constantly hitting and missing. Rich and complex, elegant and concentrated, it would be a rare day in a hot July when they wouldn’t feel like perfect restaurant food. So while our body clocks insist that they go, our hearts and tastebuds keep saying ‘hang on, one more week, save the turnips and parsnips, it’s bloody freezing out, have you seen the forecast, man?!’ It’s a lost cause. Spring has sprung.
This week, with Easter and the 1st of April behind us, we went for the cull and took out the two most hardcore winter staples. One we replaced with this variation on our spring cabbage dolma. Lots of sweet, spicy, punchy and fragrant flavours, with a scattering of broad beans to add some, er, boing!. If the recipe reads like a bit of work, bear in mind that both sauces are room temperature and the dolma can be made ahead of time too, so the cooking to order bit is very simple. We’re serving it with a dollop of saffron-crushed potato, and have in the past served it with farrotto, couscous, wild rice or a braise of fennel and potato.
The other new dish is something we’re very excited about, featuring a new ingredient from a local producer. Can’t say any more than that, you’ll have to come in to find out about that one.
30g almonds, toasted and finely ground
1 large red pepper, roasted and peeled
250mls olive oil
1tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
20 cardamom seeds, crushed
1.2kg carrot, in 1cm dice
1 medium leek, diced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 fresh green chillies, halved, seeded and sliced
250g cooked chickpeas
12 leaves spring cabbage
some broad beans, podded and blanched
Smoked pepper-almond sauce:
Chop the roasted pepper and put it in a pan with the olive oil and water. Boil for one minute, then blend with the almonds in a food processor to get a thick pouring consistency. Whisk in the harissa paste, paprika and sherry vinegar, and leave to cool.
Cardamom yoghurt sauce:
Stir the cardamom into the yoghurt.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6
Roast the carrots in the oven, tossed in olive oil, for 20–30 minutes, until lightly coloured and tender.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan, and fry the leek over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the seeds, garlic and chillies, and fry for 2 minutes more.
Mash the chickpeas coarsely with a fork, then add them to the pan and continue frying for 5 minutes more. Gently stir in the roast carrot, season with salt, take off the heat and leave the mixture to cool.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the spring cabbage leaves for five minutes, until tender. Drain and pat dry.
Place a leaf on a worktop, cut the near end in a straight line and flatten the central stalk. Put a tablespoon of the filling at one end. Roll the leaf up one turn and fold in the sides, then continue rolling to the end, to make a cylindrical parcel. Make twelve parcels and place them in an oven dish brushed with olive oil. Brush the parcels generously with olive oil, sprinkle them with some water or stock. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
Drizzle some harissa sauce on the plates, place three dolma on each and drizzle some yoghurt on top. Scatter some broad beans over and around each plate. Add a spoonful of potato, couscous, risotto or other pilaf.