There is something rather special about eating seasonally, with the underlying pleasure of having good food in its prime that's been picked and selected carefully.
Spring in itself creates a sense of well-being and new beginnings.
Vegetables at their best give us strength of flavour, simplicity and a new discovery of tastes. As cooks, we so often forget about the simplest of foods that can be cooked on their own or in a risotto, where their freshness creates the underlying flavour.
Seasons come and go, and seem to get shorter, so all the more reason to enjoy fruits and vegetables at their best and at the right moment. Take time to shop around if you can and make good choices on where you buy and the on quality of the food.
Increasingly now, we love the story behind our foods and if it's not organically grown, then we want the assurance of prime local produce.
Air miles, low cost and value for money are important factors -- two-for-the-price-of-one deals are a good idea at the moment as so many of our dishes are becoming lighter in cost and ingredients. That's great if you are an organised cook and plan your meals ahead.
However, storage of vegetables and fruits is so important to retain their bloom and flavour.
As with all foods, the fresher the better. We don't all live in an ideal world, though, so remember that potatoes are best out of the bag, vegetables should be stored in a cool place, and certainly look for the sell-by and best-before dates.
In these recipes, have the confidence to substitute the ingredients with your best buys -- finely shredded Savoy cabbage is great added to a risotto just before serving; look out for kale, leeks and even pak choi, which is appearing now in many shops.
Rhubarb is one of my favourite foods and a sign for me that spring is here. If the thought of a mousse is a little daunting, then simply poach the fruit on its own and serve it with yogurt or ice cream, or top it lightly with muesli or crumble.
Shop well and enjoy!