Schools Nutrition Seasonal Eats: Spring As we begin to appreciate more frequent clear skies and sunshine, life below the soil and on the land is also experiencing a hive of activity. Seedlings are sprouting, buds are visible and the expectation of growing fruit is heavy on gardeners’ minds. In the countryside, you’ll also see little lambs hopping about, cows feeding their calves and a trails of ducklings bobbing along rivers and lakes. So what foodie-fare can we expect to see and eat at this time of year? Throughout May and June, things really start to brighten up as an array of colourful produce comes into season. From green-stemmed asparagus to deep purple beetroot, red-hot chillies to cool cucumbers, ruby-red strawberries, sweet, juicy cherries and the classic pink of rhubarb. And don’t forget the abundance of green leaves that can jazz up salads or side dishes - rocket, spinach, chard, sorrel, lettuce, watercress and spring greens are all flourishing right now and are jam-packed with nutrients to keep us on top form throughout Spring. This is a great time of year to approach lighter, brighter meals which give you the get-up-and-go you need for longer days, but don’t weigh too heavy on your digestion. Building a Super Salad Salads don’t have to be boring, and can provide a wholesome meal providing all the major nutrients recommended by the Eatwell guide. So get creative with different ingredients and build your Super Salad: Start with a green-leafy base such as baby spinach, lettuce, rocket and watercress. Add in flavoursome, seasonal ingredients such as chopped spring onions, ripe cherry tomatoes and sliced spicy radishes. If you’re a fan of potatoes, you’re in luck as the first crops are coming in to season now. Boil up some baby new potatoes and add them to your salad for added carbohydrate energy. Choose your protein - grilled chicken, pan-fried salmon, thin strips of griddled steak, feta cheese (or any type of cheese), boiled eggs, marinated tofu or broad beans. Drizzle with a simple dressing of lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with lightly toasted nuts or seeds (be aware of any allergies) - an added Omega-3 boost for brain-power. Walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds taste great in salads. Season to taste with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Ever thought of adding fruit to a savoury salad? Try it - apple pairs well with cheddar cheese, grapes are good friends with brie and strawberries taste amazing with balsamic vinegar and walnuts! Not really a salad fan? Then perhaps this recipe for Beetroot and Feta Risotto will tick all the boxes - warm, earthy, filling and full of colour, it’ll impress guests (or your own family members) and the kids might even go for this bright-pink lunch or dinner option too! Beetroot and Feta Risotto Serves 4 Ingredients: 300g risotto rice 300g beetroot (2 or 3 small beets) 1 large onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, chopped / pressed 1 ltr stock (vegetable or chicken) 200g feta cheese, cut into cubes or crumbled Knob of butter (for frying) Vegetable oil (for roasting) Watercress or rocket leaves (for topping) Balsamic vinegar Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Peel and chop the beetroot into chunks, place on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool slightly. NB: I find roasting beetroot gives it the sweetest flavour and softest texture, so that’s what this recipe recommends. But if you’re short on time, you could always use pre-cooked, packed beetroot and skip this stage. Blitz the beetroot in a food processor with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar until it is just pureed but not too smooth. If you like your beetroot chunky, skip this step. Heat butter in a large non-stick pan. Fry onion and garlic for 5 minutes on low heat until softened. Stir in rice to coat with butter. Add a ladle of stock at a time, stirring over medium heat and making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. Risotto rice usually takes 25 - 30 minutes to cook through (check packet instructions). Add extra liquid if the rice is not yet cooked and needs a little longer. In the last few minutes of cooking, add the pureed beetroot, plus salt and pepper to taste and heat through. Serve in bowls topped with feta and a handful of rocket or watercress leaves (you can always mix the cheese into the risotto, but I like the contrast in colour between pink, white and green when served like this). Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.