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New series In season now: what to eat in June

Henry Gass

31st May, 2011

Asparagus, broccoli and summer squash are just some of the in-season British veg available this month. The Vegetarian Society’s Alex Connel picks his top five

From Peruvian cucumber in January to Italian lettuce in October: the ingredients for your summer salads can be bought at any time of year. But the planet has paid a heavy price for convenience, whether in the shape of food miles or the degradation of delicate tropical eco-systems. The average Spanish tomato has travelled around 787 miles to reach your dinner plate, while its journey has produced around 77kg of carbon (283kg of CO2). Or how about some out-of-season New Zealand lamb? That’s travelled a whopping 11,690 miles with a carbon footprint of 4208 kg of CO2 (1149kg of carbon) in order to turn up in your Sunday lunch.


What makes food miles particularly unsustainable is the availability of a huge variety of homegrown fruit, vegetables and meat. You might not be able to eat tomatoes in December, but there’s plenty of seasonal choice to be had. Right now, there’s an exhaustive menu of British produce available, including asparagus, aubergine, cucumber, broad beans, rabbit, mackerel and cucumber. We asked Alex Connel, principal tutor at the Vegetarian Society’s Cordon Vert School, to show us his June favourites.

Asparagus
‘One of the simplest vegetables to prepare, asparagus are a particularly good source of folate and potassium, both of which help to keep you hydrated. Try it lightly steamed: with a bit of butter or garlic, it’s the perfect starter and will keep you energised without too many calories.’

New potatoes
‘New potatoes are often overlooked as they aren’t considered one of your five a day. But leaving the small, delicate Jersey Royals out of your June menus would mean missing out on a real treat, and one that’s highly nutritious to boot provided you keep the skin on, which leaves the fibre and vitamin C intact.’

Broccoli
Superfood broccoli packs a real nutritional punch. A great source of iron, vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and fibre; the secret to keeping broccoli’s nutrients in place is to cook it gently. ‘If you overcook it, the vitamins start to leech out, the colour will change and it won’t be that vibrant green,’ says Connel. For the perfect al-dente broccoli, try steaming it for four to five minutes, then plunging it into cold water.

Peas
One of the most vitamin-packed vegetables available, peas are rich in protein and iron, plus vitamins A, C and B5. ‘You can hide them in all sorts of different dishes,’ suggests Connel, ‘including salad, frittata and soup.’

Summer squash
Delicious and with a diverse array of uses, summer squash makes a great base for vegetarian lasagna and works well in risotto and soup. Try it lightly roasted with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It also contains lots of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by the body and is essential for healthy eyes.

Alex Connel’s Warm New Potato and Asparagus Salad
This warm summer salad serves four and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, while making the most of June's Jersey Royal new potatoes and asparagus. Vegans can substitute the goat’s cheese for a non-dairy alternative.

Ingredients:
700g baby new potatoes (cut in half if more than 4 cms)
25g walnuts, roughly chopped
16-24 asparagus spears (at least 6 spears per person)
80g young spinach leaves
100g soft goats cheese log, thinly sliced
6 large radishes, sliced

For the dressing:
50ml olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 good tsp runny honey
2 tsp wholegrain mustard

Method

• Pre-heat oven to Gas 6/200F/400F. Parboil the potatoes for 15 minutes until slightly tender. Drain and cool for five minutes before placing in a roasting pan.

• Mix the dressing ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper if desired and pour half over the potatoes, mixing well. Roast for approximately 25 minutes until soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. Sprinkle the walnuts on a separate baking tray and dry roast for three to four minutes to intensify their flavour.

• Trim the woody ends off the asparagus spears and discard. Steam the asparagus for five to seven minutes (depending on size) until tender. Place in a dish and pour the remaining dressing over them.

• To assemble the salad: cover the base of a large, wide salad bowl with spinach leaves; place the potatoes on top followed by the sliced goat’s cheese (which will melt slightly), and then by the asparagus. Finally sprinkle with the roasted walnuts and garnish with the radish slices.

For more information and recipes from the Vegetarian Society, go to: www.vegsoc.org


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