English glasshouse asparagus is in, but it's scarce and very, very expensive. Proper green-stemmed outdoor rhubarb tastes great at the moment. The first Jersey Royal potatoes are available now but are also expensive at present. Despite the recent cold snap, English watercress is growing well. It is protected from short bursts of cold weather because the water it grows in remains a few degrees warmer than the air around it. Golden chard, red mustard, Red Frills mustard and tangy baby sorrel leaves are all available now, while purple-sprouting broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, wild garlic and white chicory are all still in season. Small to medium-sized purple-tinged Italian globe artichokes have a delicious pepper-without-the-heat taste. Cyprus large new potatoes are a wonderful treat at present, and taste just as good as they look in their red-brown earth-stained skins. New-crop lychees have just arrived from Israel, but come at a price.
Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com
We're coming up to a great time of the year with fish. Netting boats will start to target turbot soon as large numbers start to move inshore to spawn. Black bream will also be around more and more in the next few weeks as will sea bass, although low tides over the weekend means there aren't loads available this week. Lobster numbers are improving and will continue to do so. Good weather in Scotland means razor clams and scallops are in good number and, staying with shellfish, mussels are good at present but expect difficulties over the next few weeks as they start to spawn.
For something different, look to Ireland, where pollan, a type of char, is being caught in Loch Neagh. Extremely popular in Switzerland, where every chef will know the fish, it has never really caught on in the UK. But at £9.50 per kg it is a cheap and tasty option. Also, as a diary note, pencil in 25 April as the start of the gull's egg season.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707
Meat prices are fairly static. If you don't mind the food miles, New Zealand spring lamb is expensive, at £1.48 per kg for a whole chilled carcass, but very good quality. There is spring lamb coming from suppliers in the UK, but because of the demand created by an early Easter it might take a few weeks for the market to steady. There are plenty of pigeon and rabbit, while the first of the year's squirrels are now being sold.
Source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
Pot-roast leg of chicken with spring vegetables
Ingredients (Serves four)
50g shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic
20g sage, blanched and chopped
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 egg yolks
3 sticks celery
100g red onions, finely chopped
60g button mushrooms
1 bay leaf4 chicken legs, tunnel-boned
500ml chicken stock
Large glass Shiraz
Parsley, blanched and chopped
Mashed potato to serve
Gently sweat off the shallots in a knob of butter with a clove of crushed garlic, then add the sage and breadcrumbs. Cool, and mix in the egg. Dice the carrot, celery, onion and mushrooms. Gently sweat in a little butter with garlic and bay leaf. Stuff the seasoned chicken legs with the sage mix and chill.
Butter and season an earthenware dish, and place the sweated vegetables in it. Lay the chicken legs on top. Add the chicken stock so that it comes halfway up the dish. Season and butter the tops of the legs. Cover, and cook in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes.
When cooked, remove the legs and strain the liquor. Keep the vegetables to one side. Add a large glass of Shiraz to the stock and reduce by half, then finish with a few knobs of ice-cold butter to slightly thicken it and soften the flavour. Add the vegetables back to the sauce with the parsley. Place the chicken legs in the earthenware dish and spoon over the sauce. Serve with mashed potato.
Peter Wright, executive chef, Geronimo Inns