Excellent large plaice are around at present but won't be forever as they start producing roe after Christmas so are not worth using. There have also been prolific landings of line-caught sea bass around the South-west the in past week so it's worth getting both fish on the menu now. Flounders move inshore this time of year so are a good buy, but squid are harder to locate, so it's best to substitute for the more abundant cuttlefish. Codling are around in good number but Cornish mackerel less so. Better options would be herrings or sardines.
Native lobster prices are rising steadily and will continue to do so until Christmas, but cheaper Canadian lobsters are coming on to the market now. There has been another excellent landing of Cornish anchovies. With many going abroad it's worth acting quickly to seek them out. Unseasonal in these waters they've been joined in recent years by similarly foreign fish such as triggerfish and gilthead bream, which have started to colonise parts of the south-east coast of Ireland.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
The first few frosts of winter have tightened up late-year English produce and curly kale, beetroot, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are all in excellent condition, the last of which are at their usual market price, in spite of rumours of a price hike after the summer's floods. Wild horseradish and velvet shanks - gnocchi-like fungi - are also available now from these shores.
Peaches and apricots are arriving from Australia but are expensive at £25 per kg and cherries from Chile even more so at £45-£50 per kg.
Source: Fresh Direct - 01869 365600 - www.freshdirect.co.uk
Beef prices are stable even though there has been extra demand for forequarter meat like shin and braising steak. Despite increasing demand, turkey prices are stable - up to £5.50 per kg. Lamb shoulders remain the best buy.
Woodcock have been arriving in large numbers. Wild mallard and wood pigeon aren't in great number and grey partridge are also slightly scarce, but there are lots of red. Hares, rabbits and venison are all in abundance.
Pan-fried scallops, butternut squash purée and watercress
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 butternut squash
Bunch of watercress
8 king-sized scallops (in shell if possible, ask fishmonger to remove)
Salt and pepper
Peel the butternut squash, deseed and dice into 2cm cubes. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, being careful not to burn. Gently fry the butternut squash in the butter until softened.
Wash the watercress and separate into smaller bunches, discarding the thickest stems and any dead leaves. Set aside.
Add water to the butternut squash until covered. Put on lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until reduced. Season to taste. Liquidise and pass through a fine sieve to achieve a thick, velvety texture.
Heat a non-stick frying pan with enough olive oil to coat. Slice the scallops in half and fry in the olive oil, cut side down, until golden and crisp. Flip over, and continue to cook. Do not overcook, as the scallops will go rubbery. Remove from the pan and drain on double kitchen towel.
To plate up, spoon the butternut squash on to a plate, place the scallops on top of the purée, garnish with watercress and finish with lemon and olive oil.
Alan Hill, chef-patron, Devonshire Arms, Beeley, Derbyshire