The Joys of Spring with Skye Gyngell

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Langoustines at SpringPhotography by Andy Sewell

The chef discusses spring's culinary highlights and her new cookbook along with a recipe that works perfectly with champagne

The Australian born chef Skye Gyngell is fast on the way to becoming Britain’s favourite chef. Having worked in some of the UK’s most beloved restaurants – Soho’s The French House, The Dorchester and winning a Michelin star for her work at the wondrous Petersham Nurseries – it was to enormous anticipation that last year she opened Spring at Somerset House. Occupying what was once the rather dingy offices of HM Revenue & Customs, the restaurant is a beautifully bright and feminine space, elegantly decorated and energised by the focus on fresh and seasonal produce that is at the heart of Gyngell’s cooking. 

Not content with setting up her new restaurant, this month has seen Skye work with Dom Pérignon on a special project to launch their new 2005 Vintage, a London Townhouse called Les 3 Étages by Dom Pérignon and as well as release a stunning cookbook inspired by her first months at Spring. Here we speak to the chef about her favourite food memories and the key ingredients in her kitchen, alongside a recipe for the perfect dish to enjoy with a glass of champagne.

On her favourite food memory: "Sitting with my father on a beautiful summer's evening in Florence, and eating a perfectly ripe peach. It made me really appreciate produce in its purest form."

On her current favourite recipe: "A salad of beetroot, tomatoes, goats curd and radicchio."

On the ingredients she couldn't live without: "Good quality salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil."

On the most important thing she's learnt as a chef: "Patience is key. To be a chef you have to be extremely patient and it is a crucial lesson to learn."

On her favourite places in London: "Food-wise I’d say Spa Terminus farmers’ market in Southwark, it is the best place for fresh produce and has such a great atmosphere. Non-food related, my little courtyard garden at my home in Shepherd’s Bush – I feel most relaxed when in my garden with my daughters."

On spring traditions: "I get my gardening gloves out again. My garden is full of flowers, herbs and vegetables and spring is the time when all of these ingredients come to life again." 

On the best dish to eat with champagne: "Crab with Crème Fraiche and Roe. A glass of bubbly really compliments lobster, scallops and any pasta or risotto dish."

Crab with Crème Fraiche and Roe

Serves 6

360g freshly prepared white crab meat
2½–3 tbsp mild-tasting extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
A handful of mixed herb leaves, such as chervil, purslane and mint, and/or rocket leaves
180ml crème fraîche
100g lumpfish roe
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rye crackers (see page 36), to serve – recipe below

Pick over the crab meat to remove any fragments of shell, then place in a bowl and season very sparingly with salt and just a little black pepper. Add about 1½ tbsp olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice. Toss together very lightly but thoroughly with your fingertips.

In a separate bowl, dress the leaves with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat.

Divide the crab meat among the plates and arrange the dressed leaves alongside. Spoon the crème fraîche on top of the crab and finish with the roe. Serve the warmed rye crackers on the side. 

Rye Crackers

Makes 20–25

250g organic wholegrain rye flour, plus extra to dust
½ tsp sea salt
1½ tsp honey
140ml water

Place the rye flour, salt and honey in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the water and mix together, using your hands, to a homogeneous dough. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Take the dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a very thin sheet and cut into long triangles or rectangles. Place on a baking tray.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8–12 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Spring by Skye Gyngell is out now, published by Quadrille.