Melanie Johnson adds some zing with this season’s new spring onions.
Spring with all its fresh, green bounty, is just around the corner, so I thought this week’s recipes should be healthy and light. Spring onions will always brighten up a salad, but they bring freshness to cooked dishes too.
Chicken, spring-onion and mozzarella meatballs with pesto courgetti salad (serves 4)
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
3tbspn maple syrup
200g chicken breasts
3 finely chopped spring onions
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
A handful chopped fresh basil
1 lightly beaten egg
2 handfuls basil leaves
100ml olive oil or more if needed to loosen
75g grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon plus 1tspn zest
2 spiralised courgettes
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Arrange the sweet-potato wedges on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup and roast for 25 minutes or until tender.
Peel away the skins and put the flesh in a food processor along with the chicken and mozzarella. Pulse the mixture, but don’t take it so far that it becomes a paste, then stir in the chopped spring onions, breadcrumbs, basil, beaten egg and some seasoning. Mix well and scoop out in small mounds, rolling each one into a ball with your hands.
Heat some olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the meatballs, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook in batches if necessary and, once done, keep them warm in the oven.
Make the pesto by simply blitzing together the basil, olive oil, almonds, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice and zest in a processor until they create a paste, seasoning to taste. Stir the pesto generously through the spiralised courgette.
Serve the meatballs hot, with the courgetti salad on the side.
More ways with spring onions
Slice an avocado in half and remove the stone. In a bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of mascarpone, half a chopped red chilli, 1 chopped spring onion, 3 tablespoons of finely diced, cooked chicken, 2 table- spoons of lemon juice and seasoning. Pile mounds of the mixture onto the avocado halves and top with an extra chopped spring onion and a few bits of chilli. Bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes and serve with a squeeze of lemon, plus lemon-dressed spinach leaves.
Whole steamed sea bass with spring onions and fennel (serves 4)
Firstly, you will need a couple of sea bass of about 1.5kg (3½lb) each. In a small bowl, mix together a few tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of a lemon, 8 chopped spring onions, 2 thinly sliced fennel bulbs and seasoning. Slash the skins of the fish, spoon the mixture into the cuts and rub in. Wrap loosely in foil and bake in a medium-hot oven for 25 minutes. Serve with saffron creamed potatoes.
Asian-style beef and spring onions with brown rice (serves 2)
Slice 2 pieces of frying steak into thin strips and add to a medium- hot wok with a little vegetable oil. Throw in 3 chopped spring onions (white and green parts) and a handful of mangetout and stir. Pour in a tablespoon each of mirin and soy sauce, add grated ginger (a piece of about 2cm sq) and a dash of chilli paste and stir again. Add 200ml of miso soup (a sachet is fine) and reduce a little, then mix in a small lump of butter to make the sauce shine. Fold in a scattering of toasted black sesame seeds and freshly chopped coriander to your brown rice and serve in bowls with the beef.
Keep it simple: the combination of oxtail and onions has more than enough flavour for this dish.