When I drew back the curtains on Saturday morning the sun shone brightly from a cloudless blue sky - a perfect market day. Well, not totally perfect because the temperature was only just above freezing. However, the sun promised warmth later in the day and reinforced the feeling that we are on the cusp of the end of Winter and the start of Spring.
And the start of Spring heralds the arrival of much anticipated new seasons produce. I use the local market as the source of all our fresh food at 42rvh, which means that the menus are completely governed by what is in season. There is an almost exhilarating feeling of anticipation about the arrival in the market of something that you have been denied for the last nine months.
So it is with asparagus, strawberries, broad beans and artichokes - all of which appeared in the market this weekend for the first time this year. I eagerly bought some of each, with my mind already racing ahead to how I would use each one back in the kitchen.
More of the others later but today is all about the early strawberries.
Actually they are not grown locally - they are imported from Spain and are no doubt grown in polytunnels. They are large and have a pithy core that needs to be cut out and, on their own, without the addition of sugar, are a little bitter - but their bright scarlet colour nestled in their wooden boxes marks a sea change from the dark greens and whites of winter vegetables that have dominated the market stalls for the last four months and heralds the promise of sweet juicy fruit to come.
These strawberries are perfect for jam or for compote, both of which we use on our breakfast trays at 42rvh - the compote with yoghurt and granola or in smoothies and it is the simplest thing in the world to make.
Simply cut the strawberries in half and cut out the pithy middles. Pop them in a pan with a jolly good sprinkling of caster sugar. Bring it to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes, skimming off any froth as it rises to the top. Put into sterilised jam jars and keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.