When spring comes around, it can inspire a kind of fervour. There is visceral excitement, even ecstasy, as we rush to embrace the warmer weather and lighter foods – to welcome the new. There is so much green, so many sweet pink and white blossoms, and so much promise.
As much as I love spring’s heady rush, I have come to realise that I love the turn of every season and the incremental transitions within each one: to welcome its arrival and feast on its fleeting abundance, then let it go and turn to what comes next. The seasons teach me to be present with what is available and to accept what is not. They ground me and provide a rhythm I can flow with.
They are also a huge source of creative inspiration for me. Each week, I survey what is on offer and take up the invitation to imagination and invention: What can I make with this? How can I savour it before it passes and the next wave arrives? How can I preserve it for later?
The seasons also have their own curious intelligence. Somehow, they know to bring just what my body craves at that time. In winter, I love the substance of root vegetables and brassicas, and the heartiness of slow cooked casseroles. When spring arrives, I delightedly let them go (along with my winter coat!) and embrace the freshness of all the green vegetables, the abundance of sweet milk and the arrival of bright red strawberries.
The seasons also call us to share in their bounty - to gather friends, family and neighbours to enjoy these moments before they are gone, and to celebrate their return each year.
This is just what I got to do when I visited my friend Lean on the south coast of New South Wales. It was an opportunity to spend time getting to know this beautiful part of the world that Lean calls home and shares on her lean + meadow blog, and to do the things we love best – exploring the countryside and beaches and visiting local farms, producers and artisans. And what better way to tie it all together than to put on a seasonal feast to share with friends.
We celebrated spring with a classic Sunday roast, south coast style. So that meant a stop at Jim Wild’s oyster farm at Greenwell Point for Sydney rock oysters, a trip to Berry Sourdough for brunch and bread, picking up strawberries from the farm gate down the road, popping into the deli for Pines milk and crème fraiche, and pulling over on the side of the road to forage the prettiest pink wildflowers. Not to mention Lean’s discovery of a honeysuckle bush in her backyard to make cordial.
It was the loveliest languid lunch that began with canapés and drinks on the lawn and ended several hours later drinking tea, playing with the dogs and watching the storm clouds roll in across the ocean and the valley below.
Our south coast spring Sunday lunch
Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters with mignonette
Broad bean smash on Berry Sourdough
Homemade honeysuckle cordial
Roast chicken with herbs, garlic, lemon and butter
Green salad of pea tendrils, asparagus and freshly shelled peas
Roast kipfler potatoes with rosemary
Strawberry and rhubarb tart with hazelnut spelt pastry + honey crème fraiche
For me, greens are the essence of spring so a feast at this time of year would not be complete without them. I love making salads like the one we had but I also couldn’t resist featuring broad beans. They are one of my spring favourites and every year, I’m excited to see them return. I don’t mind the work involved in peeling and cooking them because I know the reward is worth it. There are so many ways to enjoy them but this smash is a particular delight, and a brilliant alternative to the ubiquitous smashed avocado. For our lunch, we used it as a canapé but it’s also great for brunch on toast with a poached egg.
Broad bean smash
Around 200g fresh podded broad beans (fava beans) (about 600g unpodded)
¼ bulb of young spring garlic with its green stem (or substitute 1 clove), finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
50ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice and half the zest of 1 large lemon
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt flakes
½ tsp sumac (optional – I like the extra lemony zing it brings)
Take the broad beans from their pods and blanch them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes (depending on their size). Drain, refresh in cold water and drain again to cool before peeling the outer skin. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with ½ teaspoon of salt into a paste then add the peeled broad beans, mint, lemon zest, pepper and sumac (if using) to taste until you have a rough, textured mixture (you can also use a food processor but be careful not to over-process). Gradually add the lemon juice and olive oil to the desired consistency and taste.
Serve on sliced sourdough baguette or put everything out and allow people to serve themselves – be warned, they’re likely to want generous servings!
Big thanks to Lean, Jakob, their friends, dogs Taj and Wilson, and all the people, places and produce of the south coast that made it such a memorable visit and glorious lunch.