These recipes are a nod to the summer ahead – without needing to rely on summer’s ingredients. Don’t be afraid to incorporate frozen greens and vegetables into your cooking. Basic frozen ingredients like broad beans, sweetcorn and broccoli are full of flavour, and can be used to turn into Italian-inspired, fresh-tasting spring dishes, like the spinach ricotta lasagne and frozen vegetable minestrone featured here. Peas and cauliflower florets are convenient to chuck into a delicious minestrone base to fill your bowl, at a time when people are conscious of eating well without breaking the bank. These times are tough on everyone.
Spinach and ricotta, a classic Italian pairing, is a brilliant variation on a classic lasagne with béchamel sauce and meat ragù with a moreish, creamy texture – and using frozen spinach saves you washing, chopping and preparing fresh spinach. The best home cooks aren’t afraid to take shortcuts. Add chilli or spring onion, to give it a kick.
If you have the inclination to make your own ricotta and have spare time at home, you could give it a go – but I like to use Westcombe Dairy’s cows’ milk ricotta from Somerset, if I can get it, or any good-quality shop-bought version. I also love broad beans mixed in with blanched asparagus and purple sprouted broccoli, all the lovely green goodness like that will be in season soon, in a simple vinaigrette, finished with toasted hazelnuts and creamy ricotta.
The sweetcorn courgette fritters also work well leftover, served for breakfast the next day, with eggs. Add cabbage or any other veg you have through them if you like; the patties are fun for kids to shape and fry.
Finally, cod with parsley sauce is a nostalgic dish: my mum used to make it for me when I was a child. Everyone remembers the Bird’s Eye cod fillets in sauce cooked in a bag – but you can use monkfish, hake or any flaky white fish. Add mustard powder or lemon rind for a twist, seek out sustainable fish where possible, and tuck in!