So much for April showers! This year we had the opposite. No not baths… Until very recently there was a complete absence of showers.
Not even a sprinkle. It was one of the driest Aprils on record for the UK and Scotland was driest of all.
Then, all of a sudden, the skies are pouring down, washing our streets clean and giving plants a much needed drink.
In Scotland, where rain is plentiful, drought is technically defined as a complete lack of rainfall for 15 days.
Checking the rainfall logs which some poor soul has to fill in on a daily basis we can see zero rainfall for at least that long during April and early May in quite a few areas of Scotland - so we have actually faced drought conditions in Scotland, the country famous for being rainy! Exciting! Or worrying!
In Libya, where rain is less plentiful, a drought is only declared after two years. So you might well ask where we get off calling this a drought.
Well actually, you won’t hear the “d” word at all from farmers. They are being typically resilient, shrugging off the recent period of dryness as just another thing in a long line of things to contend with when trying to produce the nation’s food.
Dry weather will of course have an impact eventually, just like those tomato plants you forgot to water in your greenhouse last year. You remember the ones. Those shrivelled little green things. Or was that just me?
Conversely too much water is also harmful, so the worst thing that could happen now is a load of rainfall onto dry soil, which will make fields look like giant brown bath tubs with plants floating around in them like a fancy bath bomb made of spinach.
For the most part though, so long as we return to relative normality in the not too distant future we don’t need to panic. Which is nice, because I don’t like panicking.
What I do like doing is eating and this month I have been enjoying a magnificent range of Scottish produce which you will already know if you follow any of my hugely popular social media channels (see links at the bottom).
This time of year is fantastic for those sweet, early crops – small potatoes, baby salad leaves, young green vegetables, fresh herbs. Combine them together with a delicate piece of fish or a choice cut of meat and you have a Spring meal to savour. And that’s exactly what
I’ve been doing…
I tried some Scottish loch trout, which went really well with a parsley and lemon sauce served with new potatoes and asparagus. I simply baked the seasoned pieces of fish in foil for 20 minutes.
The sauce was really easy – just a large knob of butter melted in a sauce pan with a teaspoon of flour added and stirred through followed by whole milk, a bay leaf, some nutmeg, grated lemon zest and seasoning. I added the chopped parsley towards the end.
The trout was very tasty, slightly firmer than salmon and with a subtle flavour that went well with the slightly acidic sauce.
Another joy during the month was a Scotch single rib of beef. I hadn’t realised before that ribeye steaks are basically thin slices of meat taken from a boned rib. So buying an entire rib means you basically have a giant ribeye steak on the bone. This is a good thing for a number of reasons – being thick means it is bigger and being on the bone means you get another level of succulence, plus those nibbly, juicy, crunchy bits that form during cooking near the bone and along the fatty edge.
Rib of beef can be very expensive, but I found one on discount because it was nearing the end of its shelf life, which made me very happy.
Here it is:
I cooked it simply, browning in a pan then 15 minutes in a hot oven. I served it with buttery mash and purple sprouting broccoli.
It tasted great, the fat and flesh combined with the crunch of the vegetables nicely. I served it with a wild garlic and mushroom sauce which was also very easy to make using gathered wild garlic (it was all over the place) and fat Portobello mushrooms with crème fraiche.
Another dish I really enjoyed this month was a roast free range Scottish chicken:
It was easy to cook and the gravy kind of made itself. I just kept the juices from the chicken in the roasting pan, added a teaspoon of plain flour and stirred, before adding a splash of wine and drinking the rest with the meal.
It’s not a classically Scottish crop and local varieties can be hard to track down but in my house, May is all about asparagus. You don’t need a recipe for asparagus but here’s one anyway.
16 fat stalks of British (Scottish if you can get it) asparagus, as above.
I choose not to buy Peruvian because there have been reports of water scarcity in the regions of Peru that farm asparagus which affects the local population.
• Fire up your barbecue. Ideally you’ll have something other than just asparagus to cook on it otherwise this may be a bit of a waste of fuel.
• Brush/rub your asparagus stalks with a little olive oil until glistening.
• Place the asparagus stalks across the bars (perpendicular is the key word here, otherwise you’ll lose your asparagus to the heat source).
• Give them 5-8 minutes, rotating occasionally.
• Enjoy the charred, crunchy and hot stalks of deliciousness with whatever else you’re eating – ideally with a small bowl of mayonnaise to dip them into.
• Connect with Joe: Instagram & Facebook: @GoodScottishFood Twitter: @ScottishFoodJoe
Joe Hind's Scottish Food Year: April and the challenges of Scotland's weather