Peas and broad beans are now in full swing - from the Continent as well as the UK. Elderflowers are around everywhere now, so get foraging. Brighter, crisper summer cauliflowers are also in - the difference is that most cauliflowers at this time of year have been in the fields all winter and have been damaged, or at least discoloured by the weather. Summer cauliflowers come from plants sewn in winter under glass and planted out very early so they produce the first heads. The first blue-green heads of super-fresh English broccoli are ready to harvest and English samphire is around. Stone fruit from the Continent, which you would expect to be in by now, are still hard to get because of wet weather in Europe. French wet garlic looks handsome this week and has a fresh, zingy aroma. In fruit, the first large, succulent, brown figs of the season have begun to trickle in from Spain. Supplies can be erratic at this time of year, but it's worth getting some if you can.
The recent warm weather has seen further demand for rumps and sirloins, keeping prices very firm. Beef roasting joints such as topside and silverside seem to have bottomed out in price. Chefs are using more slow-cooking joints such as shin beef and beef skirt steaks in order to keep beef options on the menus. Imported beef remains scarce and we are starting to see more and more imported cuts from countries such as Spain, Poland and Germany that are mainly produced from young bulls - in some cases they are very lean and can have eating quality issues. Do not expect to see any change other than further increases on steak over the coming months. Pork is at an all-time high as demand across Europe continues to grow. The increase in the slaughter of sows - in order to reduce producers' breeding stocks - has eased the increase in pork prices. There have been far fewer spring lambs than anticipated through late May and early June and individual cuts such as rack of lamb and pre-portioned rump remain very expensive. That said, the eating quality of home-produced lamb is at its best and a good alternative to steak.
Source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
There have been good landings of wild salmon, available at about £20 per kg, while sea trout prices have fallen to about £14 per kg. Lobster prices are as low now as they will be all year, and turbot prices are sitting at a low £12.90 per kg for a 2-3kg fish - the maximum you'll pay for a large fish is £20 per kg. Plaice is now returning to good condition. There's line-caught mackerel and bass around and lots of pollack. For a good, cheap fish, grey mullet is in excellent condition and coming in from South Wales, Devon and Cornwall - the most you'll pay is £4.30 per kg. There's a shortage of squid but cuttlefish are in good number and there is plenty of shellfish around. Farmed salmon prices are rising because of the shortage of larger fish and, unbelievably, gurnard sold for a record £7.50 per kg at Brixham market at the weekend. That means the en vogue fish, which has a yield of about 33%, will cost as much as sea trout by the time it hits the plate.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707
Seasonal recipeSteamed grey mullet, green beans, sun-blushed cherry tomatoes, black olive purée, potato and thyme sauce
16 sun-blushed cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1tsp orange rind
80ml extra virgin olive oil
400g green beans
2tbs Champagne vinegar
1kg red-skin potatoes
3tbs fresh young thyme leaves
100ml vegetable stock
4 x 150g grey mullet fillets
2 bay leaves
To garnish: black olive purée, Venus clams
Blanch, peel and cut the cherry tomatoes in half then season with sea salt, sugar, garlic, thyme, orange rind and 10ml extra virgin olive oil. Allow to slow-cook in a plate warmer or under a heat lamp for six to eight hours. Blanch the green beans and refresh in iced water. Julienne the shallots and marinate in Champagne vinegar then use to dress beans. Thinly slice the red skin potatoes and wash to remove starch. Boil until soft then liquidise with 1tbs of thyme leaves and a good-quality, light extra virgin olive oil (I use a blend of Ogliarola and Cellina di nardo olives, which results in a very light, fruity oil, acidity 0.35%), a small amount of butter and as much of the vegetable stock as needed to acquire the correct consistency. Add extra olive oil to help emulsify the sauce when blending. Season the grey mullet fillets with a drizzle of fruity olive oil, thyme, a half torn bay leaf each and salt. To cook the fish we use vacuum pouches and cook them for six minutes at 82°C in a water bath, then rest for two more minutes. (Please note that only the very best and freshest fish are suitable for poaching.)
Serve with sun-blushed tomatoes, good-quality black olive purée and maybe garnish with a few Venus clams.
Santino Busciglio, head chef, Number Twelve Restaurant