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Watercress
Food in Season

WLR’s food expert Laurence Beeken highlights this month’s Food In Season and gives you some healthy recipes to spice up your diet.

Food in Season: April

By WLR's Site Manager, Laurence Beeken

April heralds the official end of winter and the beginning of spring as the clocks move forward.  After the long winter months and the endless round of soups, stews and root vegetable meals, lighter, more colourful foods begin to appear in the shops, and your recipe options expand.

In April, leafy young shoots such as spinach and lettuce take over from hardy cabbages, while burgeoning herbs make a tasty addition to meals.  New, fresher root vegetables begin to put in an appearance and fruits take on a sweeter taste as we move from the stored imports to the freshly home grown.

Spring Lamb

Lamb is associated with spring in many cultures and in the UK it is the roast to serve on a Sunday. Although available all year round, spring lamb has plump, rosy coloured flesh that cooks up with a tender texture and more subtle flavor than joints purchased at other time of the year.

Lamb is defined as a young sheep that is marketed within the year of its birth. This means that if it is imported it may have been slaughtered last year and then frozen for a year so if you can, buy cuts from a local butcher to ensure that the meat is fresh and will have a better flavour. Local butchers are more likely to be able to tell you the most about the meat, for example, where it comes from and how it was reared and slaughtered, all of which have an impact on the meat's flavour and tenderness.

Cuts will vary from country to country. In the UK, we see leg, loin, rack of lamb, shank, chops, cutlets, shoulder, breast, neck and scrag. A crown roast is made up from two racks tied together in a ring, bones uppermost and meat side inwards. A guard of honour is two racks tied together facing each other, meat side down and the bones pointing inwards to overlap at the top.  Most of the internal organs (offal), such as heart, kidneys and liver are also eaten. 

Choose joints and cuts carefully; look for firm, fine-grained meat with a velvety texture.The meat should be moist, rather than dry or slimy. Any fat on the outside of the lamb should be white not yellow (which may be rancid). Properly hung lamb should have a deep red, rather than bright red colour, although very young lamb will be paler than older lamb.

Preparation

Before it goes in the oven, lamb should be at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before cooking. Keep it covered, in a cool place. If it has been frozen, defrost according to the packaging instructions – at least overnight in the bottom of the ‘fridge.

Storage

Any fresh cuts that are bought loose will keep for up to 2-4 days. Larger cuts for roasting will keep up to 5 days. Minced lamb or lamb offal should be eaten within a day of purchase. For vacuum-packed meat (including frozen), follow the use-by date on the packaging.  Like any raw meat, if you are storing it in the ‘fridge then make sure it doesn't touch any cooked foods or anything that will be eaten raw.

Nutrition data per 100g (Lamb, Trimmed Fat, Raw, Average)

Calories (kcal):518                    
Protein (g): 13.3
Carbohydrate (g):  0
Sugars (g): 0
Fat (g):  51.6
Saturates (g): 26.3
Fibre (g): 0
Sodium (g):  0.036
Fruit & Veg portion: 0

Lamb Recipes:

Spiced, Roast Leg of Lamb

Traditional Lancashire Hotpot

Grilled Lamb Chops

Salmon

We should be eating at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish, which if eaten regularly can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the chances of survival after a heart attack.

Oily fish such as salmon are one of the richest natural sources of Omega 3 fatty acids (also known as long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) which have been suggested to help keep the heartbeat regular, reduce triglyceride levels (these are fatty substances found in the blood), and prevent blood clots from forming in the coronary arteries. These fatty acids are also important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding because they help a baby's nervous system to develop.  Salmon also contains vitamins A & D and minerals too, and of course tastes fabulous!

Although recent advances in farming have brought down salmon prices to a more affordable level, if you want a superior taste then opt for Wild Salmon which is in season from February through to September.
Wild salmon has a distinctive firm pink flesh, which is the result of their varied diet and the availability of space in which to swim.  Farmed salmon by contrast tends to have a softer, fattier meat which may be colour enhanced by additives.

In the fishmongers, as with all fish, look for bright eyes and gills, firm flesh, and moist damp skin. The smell should be fresh not overly ‘fishy’. 

Ideal for poaching, grilling and cooking on a griddle, salmon is well-suited to cooking whole, or as fillets and steaks, and should ideally be cooked on the day of purchase.

Preparation

It is best to defrost frozen fish in the fridge, allowing 18-36 hours, depending on the size of the fish.  You can also defrost at room temperature (a faster option) by allowing 3-4 hours per pound (500g)

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling fish and don't allow raw fish to come into contact with cooked or ready-to-eat food.

Storage

Fresh salmon is best placed in the fridge in a covered container as soon as you get home.  Do not store fish in water.

Although best fresh, Salmon freezes well whether raw or cooked. If raw, make sure your fish is gutted and properly cleaned before freezing it; your fishmonger or supermarket will do this for you if you ask. Wrap the salmon in cling film, place it in a polythene bag or container and then freeze. Avoid storing frozen fish for longer than three months as flavour will diminish.

Nutrition data per 100g (Salmon, Whole, Raw, Average)

Calories (kcal): 180
Protein (g): 20.2
Carbohydrate (g): 0
Sugars (g): 0
Fat (g): 11
Saturates (g): 1.9
Fibre (g) : 0
Sodium (g): 0.05
Fruit & Veg: 0

Salmon Recipes:

Grilled Salmon with Chilli & Lime

Easy Cook Salmon with Minted Vegetables

Chilli Salmon with Noodles

New Potatoes – Jersey Royals

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited of the new potatoes, Jersey Royals are only grown on the island of Jersey and mature in April.  They have a relatively short availability, the season only lasting from April until early June.

The tubers are small and particularly tender when they mature in April, becoming larger as the season progresses.  Waxy rather than floury in texture, Jersey Royals hold their shape well when cooked and have a subtle and delicate taste which makes them ideal for salads.

Primarily, Jersey Royals are a source of complex carbohydrates or starch, which are usually the main source of energy for the body and vital for growth and development.  They also contain a great source of vitamin C, especially the skins (100g of Jersey Royal New Potatoes would provide you with 25% of the RDA for vitamin C), along with Vitamin B and a good dose of fibre.
Low in fat, new potatoes are a good filler on your plate to bulk up your meals and so reduce hunger pangs (just avoid the butter which many people add to them).

Preparation

If you can, buy unwashed new potatoes and then give them a good rinse and scrub before cooking as they have a better flavour than pre-washed potatoes.  Pick potatoes with thin wisps of papery skin, which can easily be removed by rubbing with your thumb. 

When cooking, add a sprig of mint to lightly salted boiling water as it complements the delicate flavour of Jersey Royals and new potatoes.  Brundall mint is considered to be the best.

Storage

Keep potatoes in a dark, dry, cool cupboard (not in the fridge) preferably in a paper bag, so they can 'breathe'. Plastic bags tend to make the potatoes 'sweat' and lose freshness, and can encourage rot and a tainted flavor.  As new potatoes have a shorter storage life than main crop ones it is best to use Jersey Royals within a few days.

Nutrition data per 100g (In Skins, Boiled in Unsalted Water)

Calories (kcal): 66
Protein (g): 1.4
Carbohydrate (g): 15.4
Sugars (g): 1.0
Fat (g): 0.3
Saturates (g): 0.1
Fibre (g): 1.5
Sodium (g): 0.001
Fruit & Veg: 0

Jersey Royals Recipes:

Mediterranean New Potato Salad

New Potato & Artichoke Salad

Savoury New Potatoes

Watercress

A member of the brassica family watercress has a bitter peppery flavour that is often used as a garnish but it is also delicious in salads and many savoury dishes.

For quite some time watercress has been referred to as a superfood and when you list all of the goodness it contains it is easy to understand why.

Health Benefits of Watercress

This leafy green plant is full of beta-carotene, which helps give us healthy eyes and skin.

 

It also contains more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and a long list of vitamins including A, C & K.

Watercress also contains an array of antioxidants particularly zeaxanthin and lutein which can help reduce potentially damaging free radicals.

All this and it helps get you closer to the recommended 5 a day!

Preparation

Easily prepared by trimming the stems and rinsing under cold water.

Storage

As watercress is highly perishable and doesn't last long even when refrigerated, I would advise using it as soon as possible after purchase. You can refresh the leaves by submerging in iced-water.

Nutrition data per 100g

Calories (kcal) 22
Protein (g) 3
Carbohydrate (g) 0.4
Sugars (g) 0.4
Fat (g) 1
Saturates (g) 0.3
Fibre (g) 1.5
Sodium (g) 0.05
Alcohol (g) 0
Fruit & Veg 1.3

Watercress Recipes

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