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Brussels Sprouts, Beef, Mackerel

09 October 2008 by

Fresh produce

There's a great selection of English orchard fruits around. Comice, Conference and Beurre Hardy pears are all arriving regularly. The apple choice is enormous. We expect to have superbly crisp, almost egg-shaped Oaken Pins, delicious Fiesta, striped Jupiter, Kidd's Orange Reds, Spartans, Coxes and Egremont Russets.

Sweet, iron-packed Brussels tops have a delicious, tender texture and are at a very reasonable price. New-season Brussels sprouts are surprisingly sweet for the time of year because we've had some unseasonably cold nights. There are wonderful spaghetti squash around and pale-fleshed cream or green-skinned acorn squash, too. Butternut squashes are now plentiful and at their best. There are a few English ones around, but the best are from Spain and other more southerly climes. Fresh chestnuts are expected at some point this week, so get your roasting pans ready.

Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com

Fish

Storms over the weekend have seen mackerel prices from Cornwall remain high. There are larger alternatives available from Scotland, however, at £4.80 per kg. Good sardines are available from Cornwall, though. Monkfish are down to £12.50 per kg, as are large Dover sole - to about £17.50 per kg. Wild turbot prices are high, at £25 per kg, but there are commendable farmed alternatives on the market at about £17.50 per kg.

There's good line-caught sea bass coming in from the Channel Islands at £18.50 per kg for large fish or £12.50 per kg for 1-2kg fish. Lobster prices are staying low for this late in the year. Freshwater crayfish are all but over now, but there are some very good smoked eels on the market. Finally, there is good pike arriving from Ireland.

Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707

Meat

There has been a rise in live cattle prices over the past few weeks, and these increases have been passed on to the forequarter cuts of beef. There has been a stronger demand for the round cuts, such as topside and silverside, owing to retail promotions on roasting joints. Striploin has also increased in price, as it appears to have replaced fillet steak on many menus.

The colder weather has brought more demand on ox tails and slow braising cuts such as feather blade and beef daubes. Imported rumps still remain value for money, however. We have seen wholesale increases on imported rib-eyes.

The hope that the Brazilian market would ease the pressure should it come back in line in early 2009 may not be realised, as it has retained its position as the world's number-one exporter of beef, with sales of more than $5b (£2.88b), and it is now supplying new markets in China, Russia and the Middle East. Cost prices for imported chilled striploins are up by 100% from last October.

In terms of game, there are more mallard and English partridge around this week, but widgeon and teal remain scarce. Pheasants will be on the market now, but wait for 3-4 weeks to get them in prime condition.

Meat source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk / Game source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707

Seasonal recipe

Salad of smoked eel, oysters and watercress with chocolate vinaigrette

Ingredients (Serves six)

36g light muscovado sugar
25ml sherry vinegar
25ml fine balsamic vinegar
20g 64% Dominican Republic chocolate pieces
1/2tsp Maldon sea salt
1 smoked eel
12 Maldon rock oysters
1 bunch watercress
8 Charlotte potatoes
40g butter

Method

For the chocolate vinaigrette, bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to the boil in a small saucepan then leave to simmer for five minutes. Place the chocolate in a high-sided bowl and pour over the mixture, then blend well with a stick blender.

For the salad, simmer the potatoes in a little water, salt and butter until soft. Allow to cool slightly, then peel and slice into quarters.

Remove the bottom of the stalks from the watercress, then wash and shake dry. Remove the flesh of the eel from each side of the central bone. Remove the skin then cut each side into nine pieces. Open the oysters and remove from shells.

To serve, place three pieces of smoked eel and three pieces of potato alternately in a circle on a plate. Place two oysters on top of the potatoes then drizzle the vinaigrette around. Finish with little sprigs of watercress.

Alan Jones, head chef, Almeida Restaurant and Bar, London

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