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We're seeing the back of winter with spring sunshine encouraging us to lighten our food - tempting out ingredients that haven't seen the light of day for some time and have been sacrificed in favour of hearty braises, lentils and comfort foods like buttered baked potatoes. When you read a list of seasonal ingredients for March they indicate a time of crossover - from earthy favourites such as the beetroot, to vegetables you imagine growing up, fresh through the ground, called by the sun, like one of your most useful kitchen friends - the leek.
Spring onions are a seasonal ingredient too but perhaps we don't think of them as such because we eat them so often in Asian food. A simple supper is made by cutting them into thin slices and stir-frying them with beef, broccoli, chilli, garlic and a mixture of oyster and soya sauce before serving on fluffy steamed rice.
They're delicious treated as the Spanish 'calcotte', grilled whole before being wrapped in newspaper to soften them and then served with a roasted pepper and almond sauce or you could serve them with a salsa if you're pressed for time.
Spring onions also lend themselves wonderfully to tarts. Make your usual pastry case and fill this with a mixture of finely sliced spring onions, crumbled goat's cheese and cubes of blanched potato along with eggs and cream before baking until golden and bubbling.
Carrots are a year-round ingredient now, as much at home on your summer barbecue spread as your wintry roast, but March is when they are at their prime. They are often paired with cumin in a soup, but try them cut into halves or quarters and roasted with a scattering of the seeds and some olive oil till charred in places, before serving with a dollop of yogurt mixed with fresh coriander.
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Carrots are healthy and versatile - use them in soups, stews, roasts and salads.
For me, the ultimate carrot is the one that has sunk to the bottom of a stew and has become soft, sweet, savoury and yielding all at once. But if you're after something fresher, try them grated with a dressing made from olive oil, sherry vinegar and wholegrain mustard - then toss in sultanas and walnuts or pecans.
Parsley is an ingredient you may not really consider as an ingredient in its own right at all. It's an incredibly useful herb to keep in your fridge, lending colour and flavour to all manner of dishes. If a dish needs a bit of jazzing-up, a scattering of fresh parsley is just the job. And have you tried it deep-fried? You only need a little oil to fry it for a matter of a few seconds, but be careful as it will spit a little. Serve it with fish for a crispy twist on the norm.
Parsley tastes its best in a silky, ivory-coloured parsley sauce. Served with mash and a bacon chop or a few slices carved from a hot ham, it can create one of the most comforting of dishes. Alternatively, for a delicious accompaniment to fish or grilled meats, try mixing roughly chopped parsley, finely sliced shallot and some capers with olive oil and lemon juice. Season and serve alongside your main course - a fresh, unusual, simple treat.
We don't often think of fish as having a season but they all actually do. Salmon is at its best right now; if you can get it extra-fresh, try it in a Peruvian-style ceviche or tiradito. Slice it into thin slivers across the grain and toss it with lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli, finely sliced red onion and some ripe avocado. Serve with toasted croutes to scoop it up.
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If you've never eaten salmon raw, March is a great time to try it in sushi or gravadlax
Or try your hand at a bit of home-curing by making a gravadlax, covering the fresh salmon in a mixture of salt and sugar with dill and vodka, then leave clingfilmed and weighted in the fridge, turning every day, for several days. Wash off, slice finely and serve with creme fraiche and wedges of lemon.
Alternatively, for a speedy lunch dish, make a simple wrap by pan-frying chunks of salmon, laying it on a flatbread with ribbons of cucumber, finely sliced red onion and yogurt mixed with dill.
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