Last weekend, the lawn in front of our building was full of people sunbathing, and the air smelled smoky from all the barbeques being lit. Today, the brave souls heading out to see the Queen’s River Pageant will have sweaters, umbrellas and, if they’re clever, flasks of hot tea.
English springs are usually variable, but this one has been more so than most: March temperatures in the high 20s, followed by the announcement of a drought and hosepipe ban and the wettest April in several hundred years. The last few weeks have featured elements of both. The plants are evidently confused too, with the first spring crops arriving weeks ahead of schedule, while others, like the asparagus, delayed and diminished by the endless wet.
Luckily, new-season potatoes and carrots seem to be readily available. They are the main ingredients in these salads, which are just as good hanging around in the sun at picnics as they are indoor alongside roast lamb or chicken or as part of a table of mezze.
Potatoes with cumin, caraway and harissa
Adapted from Moro 3
Active time: 15-20 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes
Special equipment: mortar and pestle
1 kg salad (waxy) potatoes
2 spring onions
1 small bunch coriander and/or parsley
½ garlic clove
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp harissa
4 tbsp olive oil
Scrub the potatoes and cut into large bite-sized pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes. Boil until tender, around 12-15 minutes.
While the potatoes boil, prep the other ingredients and dressing. Slice the spring onions and set aside. Pick leaves off coriander or parsley and chop. Peel the garlic and pound in the mortar and pestle. Add salt and spices and continue to turn into a paste. Finish by adding lemon juice, harissa and olive oil and adjusting seasoning to taste.
Drain the potatoes well and place in large serving bowl. Toss well with dressing and set aside until cooled slightly. Add spring onion and herbs before serving either warm or at room temperature.
Grated carrots with Turkish seasonings
Active time: 20 minutes; Total time: 20 minutes
½ kg young, tasty carrots
4-5 spring onions
Small handful ready-to-eat sultanas
Turkish pepper flakes to taste
Dried mint to taste
Juice of at least 1 lemon
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Coarsely grate the carrots with either a box grater or a food processor and place in a large bowl. Slice the spring onions and add, followed by the sultanas. Mix well to combine.
Season to taste with the pepper flakes, dried mint, salt, lemon and olive oil. The carrots will leach a bit of liquid when they sit, so it doesn’t need to be too wet. The mint is there to add a bit of freshness, the salt and lemon to counteract the sweetness of the carrots and sultanas, and the pepper flakes to bring complexity.