Spring is such a great season to cook in. As the days progress (and the number of layers of clothing reduce) the landscape of seasonal food shifts so dramatically from the root vegetables and hardy fruits towards the tropical bonanza that is sitting around the corner in summer. If you time it right you can ride these two opposing seasons and create some incredible dishes that use the best of both late winter and early summer produce, with some of the foods that thrive in the temperate spring weather for good measure.
For me, spring is also about moving away from those hearty winter stews towards light summer dishes. I always try to straddle those opposing forces and create lighter food that still keeps some of that comfort left over from winter. How much comfort is entirely dictated by the day.
And so for this season's This Isn't Tetsuya's dinner I'm trying to capture that conflict between winter and summer and make dishes that could be enjoyed in either season, but also in neither season. I've also incorporated a lot of my recent European travels in the food, with every dish being influenced by something consumed or experienced in one of the greatest culinary regions of the world.
Will it come together? What changes will I find myself making at the last minute? Will the guests enjoy it?
Keep reading to see an experimental dinner party come together.
Notes from the first round of testing, experimenting and questioning:
- The cocktail is perfect in terms of ingredients, just need to work on quantities. At the moment it looks like the balance is equal parts grappa, pedro xim and iced tea; plus a splash of brandy and a big slice of orange zest. All over ice.
- What tea do I want to use?
- The perfect ratio of sardines to orange is 2 orange segments to 1 fillet of sardine (1 side). Top with thinly sliced fennel, olive oil, a few drops of red wine vinegar (not too much) and a pinch of salt flakes. All on top of a toasted baguette.
- The starters need to be one-bite-sized. Bite-sized is more enjoyable. Two bites or more creates the awkwardness of eating with your hands.
- The pancetta for the carbonara needs to be watched. Don't let it crisp or fry. Cook it on a low heat until the fat softens and becomes edible.
- The mix of cheese for the carbonara: equal parts reggiano, pecorino and triple cream. 3 eggs. Need to test this. The triple cream cheese is adding luxury and cream but not the flavour I want. The pecorino might bring this out.
- It works with the pickle flavour, which cuts the richness. You can have your cake and eat it too.
- Given the inability of my freezer to make ice cream, what do I do for the dessert? Bought ice cream, homemade chocolate mousse or homemade chocolate ganache? Would a mixed mousse or ganache of dark chocolate and milk chocolate add to the dish?