Bright Ideas

Liz Nicholls

As winter rolls into spring, hunger strikes as our animal instinct is to fuel up. Our stomachs hanker for warm and comforting, yet nourishing food. Recipes from Katie Kingsley.

Blood orange margaritas

Refreshingly delicious, even sans alcohol. Prepare a jug of this to accompany your premier barbecue of the year and, even if the sun isn’t shining, your guests will bask in its nectarous harvest.

Chill glasses while you prepare the drink. Juice enough blood oranges to yield 300ml of juice, add 100ml of fresh lime juice and mix. Pour a small amount of honey on to a side plate and use a pestle and mortar to grind together 1 tbsp of salt flakes with 1 tbsp of demerara sugar to a course powder. Zest half a blood orange and add to the salt and sugar, using your fingers to rub to release the oils from the zest. Pour the juice, (two parts tequila and one part Cointreau or Triple Sec) into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for 20 seconds. Take your chilled glasses and dip first in the honey then the salt and sugar mix before carefully pouring the cocktail into the glasses. Enjoy chilled or with crushed ice.

– Tip – Use a dash of orange bitters, sugar syrup or jalapeno sugar syrup depending on your personal tastes.

Ricotta and spinach gnudi

Lighter than you might expect and “nude” because the mix is a popular ravioli filling without the pasta jackets. I like to make these as a starter at this time of year when spinach emerges as one of our first spring crops. Feel free to adopt nettle tops if you can forage them! Place about 300g of spinach into a pan and pour over boiling water to wilt.

Transfer to a colander and when cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop finely. Place 200g into a bowl then pour over 30g of melted butter and mix. Place 200g of ricotta into a large bowl, sieve over 100g of plain flour, add three egg yolks, 150g of grated Parmesan and half a grated nutmeg. Add the buttery spinach and combine but try not to over-mix. Check the seasoning, adding salt or pepper if needed, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Lightly flour a chopping board and bring a pan of salted water to a boil then use two spoons and the palms of your hands to help you create small balls (somewhere in between gnocchi and a golf ball) placing on the floured surface as you go. Cook in batches taking care not to overcrowd the pan and boil gently for five or six minutes and they have risen to the surface. Drain on kitchen paper and dress the little gnudi in a simple sage butter for all-round scrumptiousness; toss in melted butter and fresh sage until the sage turns crisp and serve with Parmesan.

Poached fish with creamy saffron leeks

If you want to see your future husband, sleep with a leek under your pillow but, if you want to reap the benefits of not only its mystical powers but hugely nutritional benefits, then this recipe is a great way of utilising this fine vegetable at its best. Try to choose a fish that is sustainable; shellfish such as mussels or scallops would also work well with this sauce.

Finely chop a shallot and sauté in a knob of butter for a few minutes before placing your fish fillets on top. Pour over 100ml of fish stock and 100ml of white wine then place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two. Remove lid and carefully transfer the fish on to a plate covered with foil so it continues to steam and keeps warm. Pour your poaching liquor into a measuring jug and pour 150ml back into the pan with a pinch of saffron threads, simmer for a few minutes before adding a small squeeze of lemon juice, a knob of butter, three finely sliced leeks and continuing to cook for three minutes, adding more poaching liquor if the pan gets a little dry. Add about 150ml of double cream and season to taste then stir through a handful of basil, cut into thin ribbons. Transfer your fish on to heated plates and spoon over the creamy leeks, serving immediately.