Spring vegetables

“It is a very beautiful day. The woman looks around and thinks: ‘there cannot ever have been a spring more beautiful than this. I did not know until now that clouds could be like this. I did not know that the sky is the sea and that clouds are the souls of happy ships, sunk long ago. I did not know that the wind could be tender, like hands as they caress – what did I know – until now?”

Unica Zürn

There are so many things I love about spring. The gradually lengthening days; gardening; cloudless skies, with warmth but not yet heat or humidity; flowers and strawberries and new honey and asparagus and the palpable sense of rejuvenation and re-invigoration all around. Today at the fruit shop I found the first asparagus of the season, along with some baby zucchini, snow peas and sugar snap peas, crisp and sweet and inviting. Cooked until just tender and tossed with a little butter and a sprinkle of sea salt, they were delicious and representative of all that is wonderful about spring vegetables. Any combination of new vegetables is beautiful cooked this way – the only thing to be aware of is not cooking them for too long – tender crisp is how they are best, and brings out their sweetness and delicate flavour.

Serves 4, as an accompaniment

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut in half
250 g baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
125 g sugar snap peas
125 g snow peas, trimmed
1/4 cup snow pea sprouts
20 g butter
sea salt

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Cook the asparagus, zucchini, sugar snap and snow peas for 3 – 4 minutes until just tender. Drain and immediately toss in the butter and season to taste with the sea salt. Scatter over the sprouts and serve. Delicious with fish, or chicken, or just with chewy bread smeared with goats cheese or ricotta and herbs.