Spring’s the thing

Spring is my favourite time of year. Daffodils, asparagus, strawberries and the first elderflower blossoms all signal warmer days to come and are a symbol of the freshness and newness of a season full of possibilities for growth, writes Penelope Maguire.

At home we are sowing seeds and are refreshed with the potential of new life these bring (as well as future eating!). When nothing seems certain, there is something very hopeful about trusting that putting a seed in some dirt, watering it and giving it some sun will yield new life, just as it always has.

Spring also sees the first of the new season veggies making their way down to Dunedin where they are oh-so-precious before the true abundance to come in a month or so’s time.

These recipes are a celebration of these first warm-season veggies. They take a little bit of time and lot of love to prepare but the results are worth it.

Spring tart 

Beautiful to look at and wholesome in its nourishment, you need nothing but this, a crispy lemony dressed salad, a crusty loaf of bread, a bottle of ros, some friends and a hint of warmth for a perfect spring-time celebration. Use any veggies you like here. Asparagus and green beans work great to, just soften them in some boiling water first to make them more malleable.


2x tins chickpeas

1x 270g jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil

3 Tbsp tahini

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary

2 Tbsp capers (optional)

zest and juice of 1 lemon

½ tsp salt


1 eggplant

1 carrot

1 zuchinni

1 x purple or orange kumara

fresh herbs and flowers to garnish


Roll our pastry (see recipe on this page) into a large circle and line your tart tin and prick a few times with a fork.

Add all the filling ingredients, including the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, into the food processor and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning and pour into your pastry lined tart tin.

With a vegetable peeler or mandolin slice thin strips of your veggies. Working from the inside out, place vegetable slices (on their side) into the filling tightly together in a circular pattern until you reach the edge (see the picture of the uncooked tart above).

Brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the vegetables are cooked through but not browned (its still nice if they are a little crunchy/raw).

Drizzle with oil oil, fresh herbs and flowers and eat in the sunshine with friends.

Spring asparagus quiche 

Coconut oil pastry (see recipe above)

1 block firm tofu

¼ cup nutritional yeast

¾ cup soy milk

1 Tbsp corn flour

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp turmeric

½ tsp baking powder

3 Tbsp chickpea flour

salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch asparagus and any other spring veggies you have. I used spring onions and red onions.


Preheat oven to 190degC. Roll out pastry into a large rectangle, line your tart tin and prick a few times with a fork.

To make the filling place all ingredients into a blender, excluding the asparagus and blend until smooth. Pour into the pastry lined tart tin.

Decorate the top of the tart with the asparagus and any other veggies (if using) and bake for 20-30 minutes until set.

Let cool a little before serving with salad and a fruity relish.

Spring bouquet focaccia 

3 tsp active dry yeast

1 ½ cups hot (not boiling) water

4 cups high grade flour

1 ½ tsp himalayan salt

olive oil (for drizzling)

rock salt (for sprinkling)

selection of spring vegetables. I used asparagus, spring onions and colourful baby carrots.


Place yeast, hot water, flour, himalayan salt in a stand up mixer with the K attachment. Beat slowly to start then increase the speed and beat another 2-3 minutes until it stops being sticky and starts to come together. It will be a wetter mix than traditional bread dough.

Scrape the dough into a oven proof round or oval dish drizzled with a lot of olive oil then decoratively place veggies on top. Think about a bouquet of flowers while you are doing it. Drizzle with more olive oil and set aside for an hour to prove.

Once it has doubled in size (at least), drizzle with more oil, sprinkle with salt and pop into a preheated 190degC oven for around 30 minutes until browned on top but the veggies still hold their colour.

Eat with all the yummy things (like asparagus lentil salad with walnut sauce).


Spring asparagus and lentil salad with walnut sauce

Walnut and garlic sauce

1 cup toasted walnuts

2 slices white bread without crusts

1/4C olive oil

3 cloves garlic

1 C milk (I used soy)

juice 1 lemon

salt and white pepper


1 bunch of blanched asparagus

2 tins brown lentils, drained

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

3-4 handfuls baby lettuce, baby spinach or rocket


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp maple syrup

1 tsp grainy mustard

1 clove garlic, crushed

salt and pepper


Place all ingredients for the walnut sauce (except lemon juice) in a high-speed blender and let soak 30 minutes. Add lemon juice and blend until smooth and thick. Season to taste, then chill.

Layer all salad ingredients together (except baby greens) and pour over the dressing and let sit for about 30 minutes for the flavours to develop. Add fresh greens just before serving.

Serve salad with walnut and garlic sauce and bread.




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