Beef supplies from Brazil have now ended until their foot-and-mouth situation sorts itself out. Older stocks are also reaching their use-by date, so English prices are being pushed up further. Combined with the price of the euro limiting the viability of Irish beef, it means that all cuts will be dear, especially fillets.
On the bright side, lamb is plentiful and steady in price as the last of the English season comes to and end. Pork is still a good choice, especially legs, the price of which has dipped since Christmas. We're pretty much in the last week for game, so get it on the menu now before it's too late. Woodcock and grey-legged partridge are around still, but rabbits and pigeons are a little harder to source.
The recent floods have destroyed even more English vegetables. Expect tightening of supplies and some price rises. English apple growers tell us that because the crop sold so well early in the season, there might be a shortage of late-stored fruit from now until around Easter. Grapes of both colours are in short supply, and this is holding prices up. Chinese leaves are very pricy due to the change from English to Dutch sources. English watercress has vanished, so expect to pay more for larger, big-leaved French bunches. Cucumbers are up, and aubergines are dear. Media reports suggests there will be worldwide onion shortage this spring.
English Comice pears have been picked for nearly four months now, but they'll still need a few days ripening in a warm room as they don't travel well when soft, but they're well worth the effort. There are a few dry clementines turning up in Spitalfields, but most of our Italian leaf clems continue to look and taste great. Leaf, blood and Seville oranges are all spot-on, too. Sapphire plums are every bit as good as expected, but they don't reach their very best unless you leave them to become really dark and perfumed. If you want a good-looking, good-for-you English veg, then curly kale has to be a top contender. The frilly leaves hold their shape well when cooked and they have a really rich iron-packed bitter-sweet taste. Purple sprouting broccoli is a brilliant choice, too - wonderful steamed or stir-fried. Don't forget that both the leaves and the florets are delicious, so there's very little waste. English cauliflowers are on top form, although the heavy rain might begin to affect quality later this week. Italian leafy kohlrabi is arriving in top shape, too. And both orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and butternut squashes are super-tasty winter warmers.
Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com
Prices are on the ease now after Christmas. There is plenty of pollack and squid around as well as some excellent large ling at £5.40 per kg for 5kg-plus fish. There are good supplies of Scottish mackerel, as well as sardines and anchovies from the West Country. Nice cod and haddock are available from sustainable sources in Iceland and Norway, while there is also plenty of shellfish around.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Slow-roasted Suffolk pork belly, cauliflower purée, Savoy cabbage and sherry vinegar jus
Ingredients (Serves four)
800g pork belly, fat removed
Salt and pepper
50g crème fraîche
Salt and pepper
400g Savoy cabbage, shredded
150g carrots, finely choppe
150g parsnips, finely chopped
50g banana shallots, finely diced
250ml chicken stock
250g baby onions, peeled
50cl vintage port
Approx 75g Demerara sugar
500ml dark veal jus
Sherry vinegar, to taste
Put pork in buttered, seasoned tray using half the butter. Roast at 150°C for two hours. Press the pork and chill for at least four hours until cold and flat. For the purée, cook the cauliflower in milk, drain and blitz with crème fraîche to a smooth purée. Add warm reduced cream to get the consistency right, and season to taste.
For the Savoy cabbage, melt the remaining butter in a pan, add shallots, carrots and parsnips. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the cabbage. Cook together. Add chicken stock and cook down until there is no liquid left. Fry onions till golden, then add port and 50g of sugar and season. Cook until nicely glazed.
For the sherry vinegar jus, boil the veal jus and reduce. Add vinegar, sugar and seasoning to taste.
To serve, portion belly into squares, score the fat and fry on medium heat on all sides, crisping up the fat. Serve on a bed of Savoy cabbage, with baby onions scattered, and drizzle with jus.
Katrina Todosijevic, head chef, the Portrait, National Portrait Gallery