Lichfield chef Jack Dubberley, of Dubberley Delicious, takes a look at some of the best seasonal produce available right now – and how to make the most of nature’s larder
As the King’s Coronation heralds a second Bank Holiday in as many weeks this month, it’s an exciting time for Jack Dubberley as it marks the grand opening weekend of his new Dubberley Delicious premises.
Located on Tamworth Street, in the heart of Lichfield, the new space will see Jack’s unique chef’s table restaurant concept grow to accommodate bookings of between four and 16 diners for a bespoke tasting menu in more spacious surroundings. Tables for two can benefit from an exclusive hire package, enjoying a private dining experience with an eight-course tasting menu, wine pairing and English sparkling fizz on arrival.
Happily, the ambitious move coincides with the season of abundance, with an array of glorious British produce available to feature on Jack’s menus.
“Asparagus is now well into its short season which, depending on the weather, could last until mid-May or even sneak into June,” says Jack. “If it gets too hot it starts to go woody, so the season can finish abruptly.
“We’re lucky to have New Farm on our doorstep; they pick it every day and it reshoots daily so it’s just as fresh as you can get.”
Simplicity is key when it comes to asparagus, says Jack.
“It’s just about prepping the asparagus nicely then just blanching and refreshing it, ready to serve at room temperature seasoned with a bit of sea salt. One of my favourite asparagus dishes is with an aged parmesan custard, a fresh yuzu gel and a bit of wild garlic powder, keeping it nice and simple and making the most of those clean, complementary flavours.”
“I really like using thinner spears on the barbecue, because the thicker spears can char too much on the outside before they’re cooked on the inside. Asparagus barbecues really nicely; I love serving it with some burrata and wild garlic pesto. It’s a lovely spring dish, and a great veggie dish to serve at a barbecue.”
British berries, too, are coming into prominence.
“As we head into late May and June, it’s all about berries, especially around here,” says Jack. “That’s where there are a lot of berry dishes on restaurant menus at this time of year. We chefs tend to go away from chocolate dishes in the summer and go for strawberry or raspberry dishes to keep it fresh. Everything has lots of colour, and that’s what you really want in summer.
“I vac-pac my strawberries in a nice vinegar for a few hours and then just slice them to serve; pair with a lemon curd, lemon verbena shoots and a nice strawberry sorbet for a delicious dessert which shows off the produce to its best.
“Locally, we’ve also got Manor Farm, which are well known for their strawberries and other berries, and there are plenty of pick-your-own places around here so you can always get beautifully fresh produce.”
Gooseberries are another quintessentially British berry which are ready to pick – but one which seems to have fallen out of favour.
“A gooseberry fool is the classic thing to do with them, but they really complement seafood and I make a lovely langoustine dish which includes a rich Mangalitza pork black pudding, gooseberry compote and fresh sliced gooseberries.”
When it comes to foraging, you’ve just got time to find the last of the wild garlic before moving onto the next big find – elderflower.
“Garlic is fully out now,” says Jack. “It’s been very early this year which means it might be finished by late May, so it’s all about preserving what’s left now so you’re prepared for the hunger gap.
“When it comes to elderflower, it’s great for cordials and vinegars, and you could also make elderflower gin. I’d pair it with either rice vinegar or white wine vinegar, something which won’t overpower the elderflower flavour. It’s great to use in salad dressings, and it goes really nicely with fish dishes too. You could use it elderflower vinegar to slightly cure scallops, and then add some fresh or pickled elderflower to just cut through the richness.
“A word of warning though; if you suffer from hayfever stay away from elderflower because it will set you off terribly!”
A slightly more unusual ingredient to add even more colour to summer dishes are edible wildflowers, which can be used like herbs and for garnishes.
“It’s like an extension of using herbs,” says Jack. “Nasturtiums are great because they’re completely edible; you can use the leaves like a herb, and the flowers to add colour.”
When it comes to meat and fish, British crab is coming into its own now.
“It’s all about those lighter dishes, and crab is perfect at this time of year – we get ours from the south coast, and they’re a great size now. Crab is lovely paired with fresh citrus such as yuzu, which really brings out the sweetness. Black garlic is lovely too, rather than wild garlic, or even a bit of beetroot which keeps it nice and fresh.
“Summer really is a chef’s favourite time of year,” adds Jack. “There’s so much amazing British produce available.”
Jack’s top seasonal tips:
Forage for: Elderflower – it’s perfect for cordials, vinegars and just for garnish
Cook it now: You just can’t beat fresh, local asparagus, while British berries are at their best as we head into the warmer months – Wimbledon favourite strawberries and cream are the epitome of a British summer