If you’re trying to eat seasonally, your palate is undoubtedly ready for a flavorful break from the monotony of winter’s root vegetables. The joy of spring and the bounty of new tastes it brings practically demand a dinner party, a celebratory ode to its fresh flavors and colors. But what to serve, and how? For advice we turned to Nigel Slater, whose bestselling cookbook The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater is written more like a journal than a traditional cookbook. Each entry pushes recipes beyond informative into the emotional realm, freeing cooks from the tyranny of precision and inviting them to trust their senses (and wits).
- What ingredients herald spring to you?
- Spring has arrived when I see the first wild garlic leaves in the market. They have a mild scent and the leaves are perfect for wrapping around a fillet of lamb before roasting. Spring rhubarb, too, is everywhere; it's charming in crisps and cakes. Later in spring, early peas are a must as they are the very essence of green sweetness.
- The way the recipes are written in Kitchen Diaries is so much looser than how many others are put together. How would you encourage neophytes who may be tentative about such freeform recipes?
- My first piece of advice to any new or unsure cook is to ignore the rules. Don't worry if you make a mistake. The best way to learn is by simply rolling up your sleeves and having a go. Think about the ingredient and what will make it good to eat: the answer is often simpler than you might imagine.
- Can you talk a bit about the visual aspect of a springtime dinner party? What might you incorporate?
- I am not a formal dinner party sort of person and the idea of a “table setting” leaves me cold. A gathering chez Nigel would get a single sprig of blossom on the twig—perhaps from an apple or peach tree—put into a simple glass jar.