Landings have gone down in Denmark and the Faroe Islands, so expect shorter supplies of cod and larger haddock. Prices shouldn’t rise too much. South Coast ports, however, should get a steady supply all week, with bream, brill, Dover sole, herring and monkfish all plentiful, and a good amount of line-caught sea bass. There are also good landings expected of lemon sole and plaice, which are both appearing much earlier than usual this year. Plaice is already nearing the end of its spawning season and starting to fatten up – something that doesn’t generally happen until March or April. Salmon prices are going up in Norway, while there are plenty of farmed turbot and halibut.
Good UK lamb (called hogget after 1 January, if it was born last spring) is becoming more difficult to source. The earliest new-season lamb will come from indoor-reared animals born in December, but they will still need to be fattened up in the fields before slaughter. There remains plenty of imported lamb.
Finest Scotch beef is great, although not cheap. Again there is still plenty of imported meat available at lower prices, but fillets and sirloins are firming up in price.
Pork is good and plentiful, with the finest free-range proving to be excellent. If the finest quality matters to you, always look out for the EPEX pork mark.
Venison is good and plentiful, although other game is now out of season. We’ll have a full game update next week.
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French salsify and Jerusalem artichokes are beautiful this week. The salsify tends to have more even-sized roots and better flavour than the regular Belgian variety. Smoked garlic is also something different to try. It has many culinary uses and is particularly good as a background flavour in hearty winter soups.
Look out for the first of the fresh sea kale starting again. First to arrive will be the French – quite expensive but appreciated as a luxury vegetable. A few fresh peas are available again but the quality and consistency is very variable.
Imported soft fruits are generally high in price and all lack the flavour of the summer fruits grown closer to home. Quince Pears remain excellent and plentiful.
The stone fruits from South Africa are slowly improving and the small apricots have been lovely. Recent rainfall and flooding in Costa Rica has affected banana production. The production is said be down by 2% – which may not sound a lot, but actually equates to about two million 40lb boxes!
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…and how to use them
Chump of hogget with haggis, carrot and swede mash and chanterelles
For the hogget
4 chumps hogget (2 double chumps)
For the haggis
8oz hogget pluck (liver, heart and lungs)
3oz porridge oats
1 red onion
3oz pearl barley
Splash of white wine
1/2 pint pluck cooking liqueur
1/2tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp five spice
1/2tsp garam masala
For the mash
Knob of butter
1/2 pint of hogget (lamb jus)
Remove chumps from bone, trim and de-sinew, leaving on a little fat. Marinate them in oil and rosemary overnight. Keep bones and trimmings to make jus.
For the haggis, run the pluck under cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool, then mince. Roast porridge oats in oven until browned. Finely dice red onion, sweat in a little butter, add pearl barley. Deglaze with white wine then add pluck stock a little at a time. Cook until barley is tender, and almost risotto in style. While still warm beat in minced pluck, porridge oats and all the spices and season, then allow to cool.
For the mash, trim and peel carrot and swede and cut into half-inch cubes then simmer for 35 minutes. Pour through sieve and return to heat to dry out then add butter, grated nutmeg and seasoning while mashing.
Trim ends of the chanterelle stalks, tear in half, and wash and dry. To finish, roast chumps for five minutes in a little oil on top of the stove – keep basting. Remove from heat and place on a rack to rest. Mould haggis and pan-fry in oil. When browned, place in oven for five minutes. Saut‚ chanterelles in butter. To plate, slice chump over top of the mash, place alongside the haggis and chanterelles and add lamb jus.
Marcus Ashenford, chef-proprietor, Restaurant 5 North Street, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire