Home News Recipes Crab pancakes, noodles with greens, lemon sorbet – Nigel Slater’s spring recipes

Crab pancakes, noodles with greens, lemon sorbet – Nigel Slater’s spring recipes

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Crab pancakes, noodles with greens, lemon sorbet – Nigel Slater’s spring recipes

It is as if the light has been let in. The old culinary year has gone, something that doesn’t happen until April in the kitchen, and there is suddenly a freshness to everything in the market – spring greens, sprouting seeds, the first asparagus, radishes and garlic leaves are here.

This is a collection of light, simple recipes to celebrate the new season: a wasabi-spiked avocado paste for pan-fried chicken; filo rolls with a refreshing sweet-and-sour filling and a herb cream, and a quick stir-fry of spring greens with a hit of gochujang and coriander. To finish, a startling lemon sorbet with the fizz of sparkling wine.

Spring onion pancakes, crab and avocado (pictured above)

A little pancake the diameter of a side plate, filled with crabmeat, avocado and chili jam.

Makes 8
For the pancakes
eggs 1 large
milk 175ml
plain flour 50g
Butter 40g, melted
spring onions 1

For the filling
crabmeat mixed white and brown 350g
Lime 1
coriander leaves 3 tbsp
Avocado 1
sprouted seeds such as broccoli or radish 100g
chilli jam

Make the pancakes. You will need a small, shallow non-stick pan – I use one 15cm in diameter – or use the center of a larger one.

Beat the egg in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the milk, then the flour, whisking to a thin batter. Pour in a quarter of the butter, saving the remainder for cooking the pancakes, and set aside for an hour.

Remove and discard the roots and darkest green tips of the spring onion, then chop the rest finely. Stir into the batter.

Warm a thin film of butter in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, then pour in one eighth of the mixture, tilting the pan from side to side to encourage a round pancake about 15cm in diameter. When the pancake is patchily golden on the underside, slide a palette knife underneath to loosen it from the pan, then carefully flip it over and cook the other side. Remove from the pan, lift out onto a plate then continue with the remaining mixture. You should make 8 small, thin pancakes. If you need, they will keep in good condition for a few hours, covered with clingfilm.

Put the crabmeat in a bowl and season lightly with black pepper. Halve and squeeze the lime, then add half of the juice to the crabmeat. Chop the coriander leaves and stir them in with a fork. Halve the avocado, remove the stone, then cut the flesh into thick slices. (I use the remaining lime juice to stop it discolouring.)

Divide the sprouted seeds, crabmeat and avocado among the pancakes. Place a couple of teaspoons of chilli jam and a few coriander leaves on each.

Chicken with avocado and wasabi cream

Chicken with avocado and wasabi cream.
Chicken with avocado and wasabi cream. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Ask your butcher to bone the chicken legs, keeping the skin on. Taste the avocado cream as you go, tweaking the amount of wasabi paste to your liking. I start with a heaped teaspoon, adding more depending on the brand. Some are hotter than others.

Serves 2
For the avocado cream
avocados 2 small, ripe
lime juice 1 tbsp
wasabi paste 1 tsp, to taste

For the chicken
olive oil 2 tbsp
chicken legs 2
dry sherry 50ml
light soy sauce 2 tbsp
fish sauce 2 tsp
Butter 30g

To make the avocado cream, halve and stone the avocados, then remove the flesh to a mixing bowl. Roughly crush the avocado with a fork, then stir in the lime juice and the wasabi paste. A teaspoon of paste is a good place to start, but add more if you wish.

To cook the chicken, warm the oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat, then season and add the chicken legs, skin-side down. Let them cook for 6-7 minutes, until the skin is golden, then turn and leave for a further 5-7 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and leave to rest, lightly covered.

Add the sherry, soy and fish sauces and butter to the pan and let them sizzle. Using a wooden spoon, scrape at any caramelised chicken juices on the pan, dissolving them into the sherry. Let the juices bubble for a minute or two until glossy and sticky. Briefly return the remaining chicken to the pan, turning over to coat with the cooking juices. Transfer to plates and pour over the juices from the pan. Serve with the avocado wasabi cream.

Noodles with spring greens and gochujang

Noodles with spring greens and gochujang.
Noodles with spring greens and gochujang. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Any leafy greens will work here. I found some great spring greens, but a soft-leaved cabbage would be good too. It is worth using the stalks – just slice them thinly and add them a minute or two before the leaves.

Serves 2
spring onions 6
garlic 3 cloves, chopped
spring greens 175g
peanut oil 2 tbsp
fresh egg noodles 150g
gochujang (Korean chili paste) 1 tbsp
dark soy sauce 3 tsp
cilantro leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs

Chop the spring onions (white and the lower part of the green stalk) into thin rounds. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Snap off the leaves of the spring greens, pile them on top of one another, roll them up, then shred into finger-width ribbons.

Heat a wok over a high heat. Pour in the oil, swirl it round the pan, then, as it shimmers and starts to smoke, add the spring onions and garlic. Move them quickly round the pan for a minute or two till they start to soften and color then add the noodles. As the noodles cook, drop in the shredded greens and stir or toss them around the pan as they cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the gochujang and soy, add the coriander leaves and continue cooking for a minute or so until all is soft, glossy and sizzling.

Sauerkraut, sweet potato and filo rolls

Sauerkraut, sweet potato and filo rolls.
Sauerkraut, sweet potato and filo rolls. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Inside the layers of crisp pastry is a soft, sweet-and-sour filling. The recipe is, incidentally, vegan, and you can veganize the accompanying dressing too, using an oat-based alternative to the creme fraiche. You could add other herbs if you wish in place of the dill (mint and parsley would work nicely). Allow one or two rolls per person.

Makes 6 rolls
onions 1 medium
olive oil 3 tbsp
sweet potatoes 750g
sauerkraut 400g
dill 4 tbsp, chopped
filo pastry 6 sheets
olive oil 80-100ml
sesame seeds 2 tsp

For the dressing
mint leaves 2 tbsp, finely chopped
olive oil 4 tbsp
creme fraiche 200ml
dijon mustard 2 tsp

To make the filling, peel and roughly chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a large high-sided saucepan and add the onion, then let it cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until it starts to soften.

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them thickly, about 3cm in width. Steam over boiling water until tender to the point of a skewer, remove from the heat, then transfer to a bowl and mash them roughly with a fork. Stir the sauerkraut and dill into the onion and sweet potato then season with salt (bear in mind the salt in the sauerkraut) and ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 210C fan/gas mark 8. To make the rolls, lay a sheet of filo on a lightly floured work surface and cut them in half lengthwise to give two squares roughly 22 x 24cm. Brush the surface of one of them with some of the olive oil. Place the second square on top of the first, then brush with olive oil. Place one sixth of the filling down one side of the pastry, about 2cm from the edge, then roll the pastry up into a rough sausage and fold the sides to seal. Place on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Continue with the rest of the mixture to make 6 parcels, placing them well apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20-25 minutes till puffed and deep golden brown.

To make the dressings, using a fork or small whisk, beat together the mint leaves and olive oil, and pour into a serving jug. Stir the creme fraiche and mustard together in a small bowl.

Lift the pie onto a serving board or large plate (I use my bread board) and bring to the table with a bowl of the mustard and creme fraiche, with a jug of the mint oil to trickle over.

Lemon sorbet and prosecco

Lemon sorbet and prosecco.
Lemon sorbet and prosecco. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

A simple, sparkling spring dessert. There is no reason why you shouldn’t use a shop-bought sorbet, but it is easy enough to make your own. If using a shop sorbet you will need 500g for 6.

Serves 6 or more
white caster sugar 200g
water 400ml
lemon juice 400ml (about 6 lemons)
prosecco 1 bottle

Put the sugar into a small saucepan, add the water and bring to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to infuse and cool.

Juice the lemons using a reamer or squeezer. You need about 400ml of juice.

When the sugar syrup is thoroughly chilled, stir in the lemon juice. Pour into an ice-cream machine and churn until almost frozen. If you are making it by hand, pour the mixture into a freezer box and place in the freezer for 4 hours. Stir every hour to bring the frozen crystals around the edge to the middle and ensure an even texture. Pack into a plastic container and store in the freezer until needed.

Put six glasses into the freezer. (Don’t use very fine glasses or forget them – they just need to be thoroughly chilled.) Put a scoop of sorbet into each of the chilled glasses, then pour the prosecco over and serve immediately.

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