Flavour of the season with Diane Norman

With winter receding and summer on the horizon we are in what used to be ‘the hungry gap’. With the season of Christmas richness past it sometimes feels like a long stretch to the sunny uplands of salad days. Farmers know this only too well. With our jams, pickles and relishes of last season being finished up we now look to the early spring flavours for inspiration. There is not the luxury of a glut of tomatoes or courgettes, apples or cucumbers and the warm Christmas spices have to give way to other, more subtle flavours. This week I’ve made a rhubarb and red onion relish faintly laced with star anise and it’s perfect with fish as its delicacy does not overpower. It’s good with a robust cheddar too, as the sweetness complements the cheese. And it’s a gorgeous colour. I tend to make piccalilli all year round as it’s such an adaptable pickle - less cucumber at the moment but tart green apple and broccoli stands in until the summer. I have gooseberry bushes which fruit early and they are ideal for zingy relishes and jam. Marmalade making is now finished, except for lemon marmalade which I make later on. I always look out for Sicilian or Amalfi lemons if I can get them. Not local, but I make no apology. The scent and zest of these are amazing. The joy of making and savouring preserves is bound up with the desire to not just use what we have on our doorstep, but to extend the time we can go on tasting evocative flavours. To remind ourselves that even in the hungry gap grey weeks there’s a world of flavour out there