High winds meant a slow start to the week. Summer winds have disrupted supplies of sand eels and choppy waters mean pollack are less bountiful this week. The price of squid has come down to £10 per kg and there is sensibly priced wild halibut around. There have been good landings of lobster - now's the time to get it on your menu - and plaice. Crabs are in good condition with a good meat content, while wild salmon are in great number. Gurnard are still sky-high in price and likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707
With things not shifting dramatically in the markets, try thinking about the small selection of game available this time of year. English rabbits are priced at £2.90 a leg or £10 whole. Wood pigeon are priced at about £1.60, while you can expect to pay £7.50 for hare saddles. Rooks, however, are finished for this year.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707
English cherries have hit the markets, but not in any great quantities so far. Red cherries are pretty good, although not as tasty as Spanish and French, but white are showing some skin marks. The quality should improve over the next two to three weeks provided we don't get any heavy rain or thunderstorms: bad weather causes the fruit to taste watery, split and be prone to mould.
Not only has Wimbledon been dry (so far) but tennis-goers should also be enjoying some of the best English strawberries for years. English raspberries are plentiful and look and taste good, too. However, they're softer than Dutch and don't quite have the shelf life. Continued breezy, dry weather should improve quality further.
The fact that so little English asparagus came through during a difficult season has caused growers to continue cutting after 21 June, the traditional end of the season. However, supplies are almost guaranteed to dry up this week. Young English courgettes continue to delight with their nutty, sweet taste and tender but firm texture and are good value. English marsh samphire is well under way now - expect to pay £10 per kg.
Abroad, Dutch blackberries are superb and there are plenty of good blueberries and redcurrants about. Black and white currants should be drifting in by the end of the week. Charentais melons are now coming in from their native France and from Spain. There are some excellent watermelons now arriving from Spain, too. Spanish runner beans are tender and bright with a good fresh taste. But they're not quite as butter-tender as Spanish helda beans - AKA flat, or silk beans.
Fresh almonds are coming from France and summer truffles are up in quality and down in price - expect to pay £100-£180 per kg. Baby plum tomatoes, globe and baby artichokes and fresh cocoa beans are also trickling in from the Continent.
Plaice, Edam, mussel and bacon chowder
Ingredients (Serves four to six)
500g fresh mussels, cleaned and checked (optional)
150ml wine, or water if preferred
1tbs olive oil
115g rindless, streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
600ml vegetable stock
500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
350g boneless, skinless plaice, cut into small chunks
75ml double cream
150g frozen peas or petit pois
115g Edam cheese, cut into small cubes
3tbs fresh chives, chopped
Place the mussels in a large pan, pour over the wine (or water), cover and cook for about four minutes until all the mussels are open. Drain and reserve the liquid. When cool enough to handle, remove the mussels from their shells.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the bacon for three minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened, about six minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute.
Pour in the stock and reserved mussel liquid and bring to the boil. Add the potatoes and simmer for eight minutes. Stir in the plaice and cook for a further three minutes. Pour in the cream, petit pois, mussels and warm through. Stir in the Edam and chives and season to taste.
Pour into warm serving bowls and serve with crusty bread. If not keen on mussels then replace with your favourite shellfish such as lobster or crayfish. Simply leave out stage one and add a splash of white wine to the stock.
Lesley Waters, owner, Lesley Waters Cookery School, Frome St Quintin, Dorset