The dirty palette of winter landscapes has suddenly been injected with splashes of vibrant tones, fields are greening with neon new shoots and verges are speckled with yellows of all hues; primroses. gorse flowers, celandine and daffodils, signalling that spring really is coming.
Up here is the hills we’re still in the throws of winter but even here we’ve spotted a few buttery primroses celebrating the very welcome, very delicious flavours of early spring. So whether you’re in sunny parts where spring is springing, or in a colder pocket where you need a glimpse into spring, this is for you….. What better way to celebrate the coming of spring than with a sweet treat full of spring sunshine flavours, and if you have primroses in your garden you can turn a handful of flowers into a desert to delight even the saddest Jack Frost.
My friend Rebecca lives in a little cottage which has a beautiful shady garden which is covered in primroses in the spring, it is so carpeted in fact that the cottage is called Primrose Cottage and her 2 sons Tim and Rob gather the primroses I use in my curd. Rather than collecting from verges, gather your primroses from clumps in your own gardens. You can pluck and propagate at the same time as primrose seeds can be sown green – pop open the fruit capsule & push the tiny seeds just under the earth – you’ll have your own Primrose Cottage in no time.
Primrose Curd – with Primrose Meringues
4 large egg whites
240g granulated or caster sugar
8-10 primrose flowers, chopped
Primrose curd (see below) or lemon curd
300ml double cream, whipped
• Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/Gas 2. Put the egg whites and about a quarter of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Still whisking, gradually sprinkle in all but about 3 tbsp of the sugar, beating until it is holding soft peaks again. Finally, fold in the last of the sugar and the chopped flowers.
• Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and spoon the mixture in eight well-spaced mounds (they’ll need a good 3cm between each).
• Bake for 45 minutes, or until palest gold and dry and firm to the touch. Leave to cool on the paper.
• Very carefully peel the meringues off the paper — they will be fragile. Turn upside down and spoon cream and primrose curd on the base. Decorate with more flowers, crystallised if you like.
A generous handful of unsprayed washed primrose petals
450g Bramley apples
125g unsalted butter
4-5 large eggs
The zest and juice of 2 lemons
• Day one: finely chop the primrose petals, place them with the sugar in a container and stir through the primrose flowers. Cover and leave for at least 24 hours (this will allow the flavours from the petals to be released into the sugar).
• Day 2: peel and chop 450g of apples, put them into a pan with 100ml of water and the lemon zest. On the hob, gently cook the apple until it is yieldingly soft, then mash it into a purée.
• One-third fill a pan with water and place a snug-fitting heat‑proof bowl on top of the pan. Add the apple, butter, lemon juice and primrose sugar mixture to the bowl. Heat the pan and stir the mixture until the butter has completely melted.
• Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the mixture through a sieve. Stir the eggs in thoroughly with a balloon whisk.
• Put the pan back on a gentle heat and stir the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it thickens. (It will thicken further as it cools.) Pour the curd into sterilised jars, seal immediately and store in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a month.
• If you want to use the curd straight away, transfer the mixture to a wide bowl (ideally a stainless steel one) and sit in a larger bowl of iced water. Stir occasionally until cold.