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English asparagus, hop shoots, haddock, lamb

11 May 2006

English asparagus is at its best right now, and the quality is superb. Look out also for wheat grass or wild asparagus this month. The season is short and the product is always expensive, as the crop is wild and not commercially grown.

Hop shoots are another seasonal speciality, but not widely available.

UK purple spouting broccoli and wild garlic leaf are now coming to their seasonal end as the crops flower. British chive flowers are in season now, delicious in salads.

Beans, sugar snaps and mange-tout have all risen in price of late, as heavy rain in Kenya has severely affected the crop production.

Italian peaches and nectarines are beginning to arrive once more, but many are arriving very underripe. Apricots are back on the market but, as always, the first crops tend to be small, hard and green, and really not worth buying.

The new stone fruit season improves with the weather this month, and cherries are also set for dramatic improvements in both price and quality.

Plums are possibly at their worst this month, as any stored crops are inconsistent, but Alphonso mangoes are back to their best.

Source: Chef's Connection, 020 7627 4809 www.chefs-connection.com

Fish

Cod prices are easing a little, while haddock remains stable. Plaice, however, is still expensive, although it will soon be plentiful and quality should improve. Scottish halibut is also available, with prices steady. Sea bass remains expensive.

Farmed salmon is still getting dearer, with prices now topping the £4/kg mark.

Source: M&J Seafood 01296 333848 www.mjseafoods.com

Meat

Lamb is becoming more plentiful, with quality improving thanks to the better weather. Lamb offal is very good value, with sweetbreads only half the price of the calves' equivalent. Overall, lamb is about 10% dearer than last year. Beef is still becoming more expensive and less available.

Good free-range poultry and pork remain good value, compared with red meat.

Source: Aubrey Allen 024 7642 2222 www.aubreyallenwholesale.co.uk

Seasonal recipe
Hop shoots with goats' milk curd

Ingredients
(Serves two)
10 cherry tomatoes
Maldon or Halen Mon salt
Ground white pepper
Pinch of sugar
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
12 hop shoots
200ml goats' milk curd

Method
Season the cherry tomatoes in some salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Roll in some of the olive oil and lemon juice. Bake in a medium oven until they are soft and bursting out of their skins.

Plunge the hop shoots into boiling salted water, cook until tender - about two minutes. Drain and dress with some olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. Leave to cool.

Serve the shoots with a dollop of the goat's milk curd, some of the sweet cherry tomatoes, and the juice from the tray. You can also sprinkle the plate with fresh mint leaves, if you like.

Lawrence Keogh, Roast, London

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