"Primeurs" are not just newly-released wines it pays to snap up. In the produce markets of France, the word is used to herald the arrival of edible treats too and top billing on this side of the Channel goes to our peerless home-produced asparagus, the only reliable green shoots we are likely to see here for a while. Their short season starts on May Day, and not for nothing are their business end called spears. The best shock-absorber we know for their distinctive flavour is dry muscat, but toned town slightly in an omelette, or a spring risotto they are more forgiving of a sauvignon blanc, such as The Society’s Sancerre in the white and mixed Spring selections.
But this is a fine time of year for other new-season roots and shoots too, with Jersey Royals, turnips, early carrots and broccoli all coming onstream. The following recipe makes the most of their freshness and intensity by combining them in a classic navarin with tender spring lamb, also in season. It is a splendid match for a mellow claret.
- 1.5k lamb shoulder, cut into generous chunks
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs plain flour
- A teaspoon of sugar
- 250g of little shallots, blanched for 30 seconds and peeled
- 250g baby carrots, peeled.
- 150g little turnips, peeled and trimmed
- 250g green beans, trimmed
- 300g little new potatoes, scrubbed
- 200g peas, shelled weight , or use frozen a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and rosemary, wrapped in a spiral of lemon peel
- 2 plump cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 50g butter
- Salt, pepper
If the carrots and turnips are toddlers rather than babies them into batons or bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron casserole and brown the lamb, in batches. Remove and throw in the shallots. Turn them in the oil, sprinkle with the sugar and let them caramelise a bit. Remove and reserve.
Return the meat to the casserole, sprinkle with the flour and cook for a minute. Stir in the garlic, and add 750ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and keep in a warm place. Melt the butter in a frying pan and when frothing nicely, add the carrots, turnips and potatoes. Coat in the butter then add to the lamb cooking liquor in the casserole. Cook for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Now add the beans, peas, onions and lamb, season to taste, cover and simmer the whole lot very gently on the top of the stove for an hour.
Check the seasoning, garnish with fresh parsley and serve from the pot.