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Almonds, Mackerel, Squirrel

17 April 2008 by
Almonds, Mackerel, Squirrel

Fresh produce

The first of the season's asparagus is in from the Wye Valley, although it's expensive, at £9 per kg. Worcestershire spring onions are cheap and seasonal and Isle of Wight slicing beef tomatoes are large, deep red and meaty.

New Spanish peas are sweeter, bigger-podded and cheaper than Egyptian.

Broad beans are more plentiful this week, with pods arriving both from Italy and Spain. Forget extra-fine beans - move to cheaper, tastier Egyptian Bobby beans.

Fresh green almonds have appeared on the market. Fresh loquats, or nisperos, have just arrived. The apricot-coloured fruits from Spain have a juicy, tinned-peach-like texture and a zingy, ripe-apple taste.

Finally, delicious but small Moroccan nectarines have finally arrived.

Nettles have started late this year but are available in good numbers. Turkish morels are in great condition and are good value at £30 per kg, with the US and Canadian crop starting at about the end of the month. Seabeet is around as are Alexanders and jack-by-the-hedge.

Summer truffles are underripe at present and won't reach maturity until June, while there is still sea kale arriving from Normandy. The samphire season has begun in Israel, its traditional starting point, and in about a month we should start seeing the first of the UK marsh samphire.

There's still no sign of mousserons and, although St George's Day traditionally acts as their harbinger, it's still hard to say when they'll arrive.

Sources: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com / 020 7498 5397 - www.wildharvestuk.com

Fish

As well as the first sea trout arriving from Wales, the Cornish mackerel season has started. There's plenty of line-caught pollack around as well as line-caught bass from the South Coast, skate from north Devon and good crab meat from south Devon.

Cornish sardines are excellent quality at present, while brill is down in price at about £12 per kg for 2kg fish. Wild Irish trout (£12.50 per kg) and wild char from Ireland are excellent buys. Mussel supplies will be disrupted for the next month as they spawn.

Finally, next week heralds the start of gulls' egg season.

Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707

Meat

The lamb market is levelling out following Easter, and prices are steadying. On the game front, there are still squirrels available, as well as rabbits and hares, but fewer wood pigeons at present.

Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707

Seasonal recipes

Broad bean salad with pecorino

"This is simplicity at its best. I use pecorino nero, which is quite subtle. You don't have to find that exact type, but try to use a cheese that isn't too aged, or it will kill the flavour of the beans."

Ingredients (Serves two)

120g broad beans, podded
Olive oil
Shaved pecorino

Method

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Dip the broad beans in it and stir them around. Remove them straight away and place them in a bowl of iced water to prevent them cooking any further.

Remove the beans from their skins and season them with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over enough olive oil to coat all the beans and lay them out flat on a small plate. Arrange them with the pecorino shavings.

Raphael Duntoye, head chef, La Petite Maison, Mayfair, LondonSalad of peas and Parma ham

Ingredients (Serves four)

2 leaves gelatine
600g shelled fresh peas
Caster sugar
200ml double cream, semi-whipped
Small bunch of mint, chopped
2 long shallots, finely diced
3 punnets pea shoots
4 slices Parma ham
For the dressing
1 egg yolk
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
225ml olive oil

Method

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. Bring a litre of water to the boil with 10g salt and a heaped teaspoon of sugar. Add the peas and cook until tender. Reserve 150ml cooking liquid and one-third of the peas. Drain the rest and refresh in chilled water.

Blend the reserved peas, their hot water and the gelatine to a purée and pass through a sieve. Chill until starting to set, then fold in the whipped cream. Fold in three-quarters of the mint and check seasoning. Spoon into oiled dariole or ramekin moulds.

To make the dressing, place the yolk into the blender with the juice and zest of lemons, then blend for a minute, slowly add 200ml olive oil and a little water if it gets too thick , season then add a pinch of mint.

Cook the shallots in remaining oil until soft but not coloured, and cool. Add the 400g cooked peas, and another large pinch of chopped mint, with a little dressing to bind them together. Place the shallot and pea mixture onto the plates with a little dressing. Serve with the turned-out pea mousses, pea shoots and Parma ham.

Tom Aikens, chef-patron, Tom Aikens, Chelsea, LondonBook a table at Tom aikens now >>
Video interview with Tom Aikens on his new eco-friendly restaurant >>

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