Munching into May

  • By
    Dulcima Mansell - Food writer

Seasonal strawberries and trout are on Dulcima's menu this month...

Pancetta-wrapped troutTrout season is upon us and this makes me very happy indeed. Trout is a fantastic fish, and I am very fortunate as I have a lovely neighbour (who goes by the name of handsome Col), who will often knock on the door and present me with an offering from his latest 

Being a round fish, trout can be gutted, stuffed and cooked whole; or the two fillets can be removed. I have become quite a pro at gutting and filleting trout (Col does not supply fish ready prepped!). If you are planning on doing it yourself invest in a good fish knife, which are incredibly flexible and quite unlike regular kitchen knives.

Quality fish does not need much cooking or many ingredients to shine. Trout can stand up to some rather strong flavours, if you want to stuff it try a big bunch of herbs (parsley, dill, tarragon, chives) or some fennel and a couple of slices of lemon. The fillets are fabulous pan fried and served with a buttery caper dressing or a dollop of horseradish 

Jersey royalsI was recently given a smoker by my in-laws (unsurprisingly all my presents tend to be food themed) and it is absolutely fantastic for Col's trout. Simply filleted, cured in salt for half an hour and then hot-smoked over wood chippings (I like apple) the flavour that comes out is amazing. Served with some Jersey royals, some mayonnaise and salad it is a wonderful seasonal supper.

This month I intend to always have a bit of smoked trout in my fridge, ready to play its role in pasta, salads, or made into pâté

On to my second of May's food heroes: the strawberry. Is there anything quite so symbolic of the British summer as strawberries? I think they are best served as simply as possible. I've never quite understood the appeal of cooking them; the raw fruit is infinitely superior in texture and taste. Should they be sweet enough I wouldn't even add sugar, I just chomp on them one after the other like popcorn.

StrawberriesWhen I can restrain myself from chomping long enough to make a proper dish, I believe the best strawberry desserts are those which celebrate the fruit and don't tamper with it. An Eton mess or shortcrust tart allows the fruit to be the star is my kind of dessert. The uncooked strawberries provide a wonderful burst of juice as you bite into them.

Being a lover of all things French, a glistening tarte aux fraises, a pastry case filled with sweet cream and topped with strawberries and glazed, is probably my ultimate summer indulgence. I recently whipped one up when friends came round for dinner - it was a wonderfully fresh end to the meal.

By the way, I have seen some recipes which pair these two seasonal delights together in the same dish. Frankly I think that is madness, but if you can make them work together you are a far greater cook than I!

What May produce gets your mouth watering? And how do you like to use it? 

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