Spring Recipes

Sweet and Sour Alexanders

Alexanders are perfumed, celery-like plants that you have probably driven past hundreds of times on the roadside. Try to pick them when they are 2-3 feet high, as the larger and taller they are, the tougher and more stringy they get. If you fail to find Alexanders, then celery itself would do.


For the sweet and sour Alexanders

  • 250-300g Alexanders
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
3tbsp white wine vinegar
2tsp English mustard
1tbsp tomato ketchup
4tbsp extra-virgin rapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cut the stems of the Alexanders into 3-4cm pieces, peel them and then quarter them lengthways if they are thick. You can leave the thinner ones whole or just halved. Next bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the Alexanders for 3-5 minutes, or until tender, then drain.

Meanwhile, simmer the shallots in the vinegar and 3 tablespoons of water until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, ketchup and rapeseed oil, then season to taste. Mix the warm Alexanders with the dressing and leave to sit for about an hour.


Asparagus and Brie Tartlets

Great as a starter or just as an indulgence when the new asparagus season is in full flow - can't wait!


  • First make some short pastry tartlet cases:
    • 115g flour
    • 50g butter
    • Pinch salt
    • water

Make the tartlet bases bite sized and reasonably thin. If you can't be bothered, you can buy them ready made from gourmet food outlets

  • 450g very thin asparagus spears
  • 115g Local West Country Brie cheese (Cornwall & Somerset are both delicious)
  • 2 spring onions - thinly sliced (or a handful of chives)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Hold the base of the asparagus firmly and gently bend - the end will break off where it becomes too tough to use.  Discard tough ends
  2. Trim tips to 5cm long and set aside for garnish
  3. Thinly slice rest of stem (½cm wide)
  4. Cut Brie into 1cm cubes
  5. Combine Brie, thinly sliced asparagus, onions and tarragon in a bowl.
  6. Microwave, covered for 2½mins, until Brie is just beginning to melt. This can be done in a pan on stove if necessary - don't let it overheat
  7. Spoon into tartlet cases
  8. Place a couple of asparagus tips as garnish on top and pop under a very hot grill until cheese bubbles.



Broad Beans

Young broad beans are delicious, and can be served hot, or used in salads.

Gently boil the podded beans in salted water with mint until just tender, they only take minutes.

They are best when gently squeezed out of their tough grey skins, showing their bright green colour.

To serve hot, melt a little butter in a saucepan, and add cooked skinned beans, shake, and season with freshly ground pepper, finish with a little double cream and serve piping hot!

For a salad, moisten with olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, season with pepper and add finely chopped shallots and chives.

Paul Cleave  

Broad Beans with Bacon

Bacon and broad beans is a classic combination, and this one is adapted from Patience Gray's beautiful book "Honey from a weed".


  • A handful of shelled broad beans per person
  • A slice of streaky bacon or pancetta per person, cut into 1cm slices
  • 1 frond of mint, chopped, per person
  • 1 shallot per person
  • Chicken stock


Gently stew the chopped shallot, then add the chopped bacon and brown it. Add the broad beans, mint and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add some light chicken stock towards the end.

Serve on its own with crusty bread.

Patience Gray  

Broad Bean Hummus


  • 400gm shelled broad beans
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • Marjoram - a few sprigs
  • Paprika
  • Salt


Cook the beans until very tender, then put into food processor with half the lemon juice, garlic, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, marjoram, half a teaspoonful of paprika and a pinch of salt. Blend, adding more olive oil and/ or lemon juice as necessary.

Put in a bowl and pour some more oil on top, plus a sprinkle of paprika and maybe some chopped marjoram.

Serve with any sort of bread.


Nettle Soup

Serves: four


  • 1 large onion,
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 gloved handfuls of nettle heads
  • olive oil, salt, pepper
  • 1 stock cube 
  • 1/4 pint single cream [optional]


Peel and chop the onion, garlic and potatoes and fry them for 3 or 4 minutes in a large saucepan in a little oil.

Trim away the stems from the nettle tops using gloves and scissors, wash well and add to pan.

Make up stock with 1 litre boiling water and add to pan. Boil fairly rapidly for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked.

Liquidize and return to the pan to keep hot, season with pepper and salt, pour into a large serving bowl and stir in the cream.    


Rhubarb and Marshmallow Tart

Shortcrust pastry

  • 6oz Self Raising Flour
  • 3oz Butter
  • Salt - a pinch

Rub together until like breadcrumbs

Water to mix to a consistency which can be rolled out

Use an 8" - 9" shallow tart dish (up to1 inch deep)

Grease and flour dish

Line with pastry, leaving sufficient left over to cut strips for lattice work for top of tart


  • Strawberry or Gooseberry jam - 3 tablespoons

Spread jam over pastry tart liner (on the base only)


  • Rhubarb - cut across stem into ½ inch widths

Roughly place onto jam layer, with sufficient to amply cover, approx 1- 1½lbs


Place strips of pastry on top of rhubarb, reaching and fixing to pastry at sides with a little water.  Make the lattice in a criss cross, with holes small enough to elevate the marshmallows when used. DO NOT add marshmallows at this stage

Bake the tart in a hot oven 220°C, gas mark 7 on the middle shelf for approx 20 -25 mins.  Check, cook until rhubarb is just going soft (not mushy).

The tart can then either be finished immediately or left to go cold for another day.  If you make individual ones, they can be frozen for future use.


  • 1 pack of white and pink, approx 8oz

Place white and pink marshmallows alternately on the lattice work

Heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7.  Place tart on top shelf and allow marshmallows to 'just' brown, not melt away completely! Approx 4 - 6 mins

For a vegetarian version try vegetarian marshmallows or use a meringue topping instead (as for lemon meringue pie)


Rhubarb Chutney

Good instead of mango chutney with curries or with cheese/meat


  • 2 lb rhubarb
  • 1 ½ lb onions
  • 2 lb  brown sugar
  • ½ pint vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ginger powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cornflour mixed with vinegar taken from the ½ pint.


  1. Chop rhubarb and onions
  2. Place all ingredients (except cornflour mixture) in pan
  3. Cook until tender
  4. Add cornflour to thicken

Spinach Frittata


  • 350 gm spinach
  • 1 onion
  • 6 local free range eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated cheese
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg [optional]
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt and pepper


Wash spinach [don't dry it], pile into saucepan and cook for 6 to 8 mins. Drain, squeeze dry and chop finely.

Fry onion with a little oil then mix with spinach, beaten eggs, cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat some oil in a frying pan, pour in the mixture and stir until beginning to set. Cook for about 5 mins until bottom is set. Finish off under the grill and cut into wedges.


Rhubarb Compote

picture of rhubarb

Early rhubarb makes delicious compote when cooked in its own juice. Enhance its flavour with vanilla, chopped stem ginger, orange, lemon, or Rose water. Cut the washed sticks of rhubarb into bite sized chunks and pack into a saucepan or casserole. Sweeten to taste with Demerara sugar, and add lemon or orange rind, and juice, or other flavouring, and just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook very gently until the rhubarb is tender. When cool serve with Devonshire ice cream, or yogurt.

Paul Cleave  

Leaf Spinach and Raisins

picture of spinach

Wash spinach and remove any coarse stems. Pack into a saucepan and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook the spinach over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the leaves are tender, drain off any cooking liquor and roughly chop the spinach. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little nutmeg, stir in a spoonful of crème fraiche or a little butter, and finish with a scattering of raisins.

Paul Cleave  

Devonshire Strawberries and Cream

Cut 250g of local strawberries into quarters.

Soak them in a little fresh orange juice and a dessertspoon of Devon honey for 30 minutes.

Add 300 ml double Devon cream, whisked until soft, and 1 generous tablespoon local natural yogurt.

Spoon into serving dishes and garnish with mint leaves.

Serves four to six.


Paul Cleave  

A Warming Vegetable Broth for April

For 4 - 6 generous portions you will need:

2 tablespoons organic rapeseed oil

200g (8 oz) squash or marrow cut into chunks the size of a walnut

1 leek sliced

1 large onion finely chopped

200g (8oz) carrots thinly sliced

1 medium tin chopped tomatoes

1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds

Vegetable stock,  sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Chopped parsley, and grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the washed and prepared vegetables. Cook gently so that all the vegetables are coated in oil. Add the spices, tomatoes, and enough stock to cover. Bring to the boil, and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender.  100g (4oz) frozen peas, or broad beans can be added 5 minutes before serving the soup. Season, and enjoy with grated cheddar cheese, and crusty organic bread.


Paul Cleave

Paul Cleave  

April's Recipe: Rustic Tomato Sauce

 This is especially good with grilled fish or cheese dishes.


1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

450gm tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp local rapeseed oil

1 dsp local cider vinegar

1 tsp brown sugar

Ground black pepper

Method: Finely chop onion with garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes in the oil. Add vinegar and simmer until it becomes syrupy. Add tomatoes, sugar and pepper. Cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (5 anchovy fillets can be added when chopping the onions, if liked.)

Paul Cleave  

Rhubarb, honey and vanilla compote: recipe


450gm [1lb] rhubarb;
Good squeeze lemon juice;
1 tsp vanilla extract;
100gm [4oz] honey;


Devon grown rhubarb delicious when cooked with honey and vanilla. Cut the stalks into bite sized chunks and add lemon juice, vanilla extract and honey. Simmer very gently until the rhubarb is tender. This is good served warm with clotted cream or custard, and shortbread - or, when chilled, with strawberry ice-cream.






Paul Cleave  

Lockdown treat: Rhubarb and Meringue with Devonshire Cream Custard!

Instead of a pie or crumble, try rhubarb with meringue


500g (1 lb) rhubarb cut into bite sized chunks

a slice of lemon

50 - 75g (2 - 3 oz) sugar

2 large egg whites

100gm [4oz] caster sugar


Cook the rhubarb gently with the ordinary sugar and lemon. When tender place in a pie dish and allow to cool. Make the meringue by whisking the egg whites and gradually adding the caster sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is firm. Spoon on top of the rhubarb and sprinkle with a little more sugar. Bake in a moderate oven until the meringue is crisp, and a pale golden colour.

This is good with Devonshire cream custard made from the 2 egg yolks, vanilla extract, 250 ml (1/2 pint) milk, 25g (1 oz) sugar and a teaspoon cornflour. Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract. Pour on the boiled milk - stirring well. Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil stirring thoroughly. Remove from the heat and finish with a couple of tablespoons of double cream.

 Rhubarb and meringue

Paul Cleave  

Sweet and savoury pancakes for February

Pancakes with lemon juice and caster sugar are a favourite, but try adding currants to the batter for a change. If you prefer something savoury try this filling: mushrooms, thinly sliced and cooked in Devonshire butter, seasoned and finished with a spoonful of double cream and chopped chives.

Spoon onto the pancakes before rolling or folding them.

 Paul Cleave