Zingy and springy recipe

As we leave the depths of winter behind, it feels right to take the best seasonal ingredients and add a lighter, fresher citrus twist. Start with a light spring minestrone soup, which is made clear and broth-like, filled with lovely seasonal green vegetables and finished with lemon zest. Feel free to chop and change the green vegetables you use to include the best seasonal ingredients you can get. Finish with a slice of delicious orange polenta cake. It travels well or makes a gorgeous pudding, served with some whipped cream or mascarpone.

Spring minestrone soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
  • 2 medium courgettes, cut into 1cm dice
  • 2 rashers smoked bacon, cut into 1cm chunks (optional)
  • 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 100g kale, chopped into small pieces, with any tough pieces removed
  • 100g peas
  • 100g asparagus tips
  • 100g small dried pasta shapes
  • 1.3l hot chicken stock
  • 1 piece of parmesan rind (optional, but ideally around 6-10cm in length, though even a small piece will make a difference)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic and leek, and allow to cook over a moderate heat for around 10 minutes until softened and the onion is slightly translucent.
  2. Add the carrot, courgette and bacon (if using) and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the beans and green vegetables, and stir well.
  3. Next, add the pasta shapes, hot stock, parmesan rind, if using, and salt and pepper. Stir and allow to simmer for 45 minutes before serving with the finely grated zest of a lemon on top.

Orange polenta cake

Serves 8

Orange and polenta cake

Ingredients

  • 2 large oranges
  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 100g polenta bramata
  • 250g ground almonds

Method

  1. Place the oranges in a pan, cover with water and place on the hob to boil for 2 hours. Top up the water from time to time to keep them covered. After 2 hours, turn off the heat and leave the fruit to cool in the pan. Discard the liquid when cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan/Gas 3. Grease and line a 23cm round springform tin with non-stick baking paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the polenta and ground almonds, and mix well.
  4. Take the cooled whole oranges, place in a food processor and blend until smooth, skin, pith and all. Add orange purée to the cake mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture into the springform tin.
  5. Place tin in the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour. Check the cake after 30 minutes and, if it is browning too quickly on top, cover with foil and return to the oven to finish baking.
  6. Allow to cool in the tin and then cut into slices. This cake will keep for around 5 days, wrapped well. 

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