And all of a sudden it’s spring.
I had been wondering how it would happen here – or if it would at all. Because what I’m used to, spending most of my adult life in places buried under snow for at least four months out of the year, is a spring that comes on so sudden you feel dizzy. The snow melts. The rain falls. You get a few sunny days and then wham! Everything comes bursting out of the ground in an explosion. You can’t keep up with it. So much so fast – it makes one feel a little manic.
But in Cornwall, there was never any snow. There were camellias blooming back in January. There were daffodils in February. Spring seemed to meander its way over the landscape like a child making her way home for supper, unhurried and untroubled, stopping here and there to examine the movement of a blade of grass, the shape-shifting of a cumulus cloud. There certainly was no rush, after all.
But it turns out, there is no landscape in the northern hemisphere immune to the frenzied rush of spring. Because within the last few days, the hedgerows have awoken. Leaves have unfurled on the trees. Flowers have bloomed everywhere – cow parsley, bluebells, pink campion, and buttercups – popping out of the ground as if they were coiled on springs. Yes, the season has hit the point of no return; maximum velocity has been achieved. And I do indeed feel dizzy and elated and ever so slightly deranged. As if my head were filled with champaign.
Light and airy – that is the expression.
And when I feel light and airy, I suddenly want to eat things that are light and airy. Things that are crisp and crunchy and full of bright and delicate flavours. Something that makes your mouth tingle and buzz after you’ve eaten it, and your belly dance with the fluttering of a thousand butterfly wings. Fortunately, when I opened up the fridge, I found the perfect ingredients waiting: tart green apple, crisp fennel, a knobbly celeriac, a lime. It came easily from there – light and airy – and I almost danced about the kitchen as I made it, intoxicated on the lushness of life.
- 1 tart green apple
- 1 large bulb of fennel
- half a small celeriac
- juice and zest of a lime
- half a thumbs worth of ginger, grated
- one small red chili, minced
- handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
- fennel fronds from the bulb, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1. 5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- pinch of black pepper
- mild tasting olive oil to serve
- Cut the apple crosswise into thin segments, discarding the core, and then slice each segment into strips (julienne style) about 1/8 inch across and as long as a finger. Place into a mixing bowl.
- Cut the fronds and the bottom off the fennel, reserving the fronds. Slice the fennel as thinly as you can, using a mandolin if you have one. Place in the bowl with the apples.
- Peel the celeriac and slice into thin strips as you did for the apple. Add to the bowl.
- Add the lime zest, and then squeeze the lime juice over everything, tossing to coat, to prevent browning. Add the ginger, chili, mint, fennel fronds, sugar, salt and pepper and toss everything together until thoroughly mixed.
- Taste for seasoning - adding more lime, salt or heat (chili or ginger) as you see fit.
- Serve as is, trickled with a little olive oil, or add a handful of roasted chickpeas to make a more substantial meal. (To make roasted chickpeas, toss cooked chickpeas in oil with salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven for 15 - 20 minutes, or until crunchy). Would also be perfect with fish.