Food File

11 November 2004
Food File

Fish Landings should improve this week with the weather. From the South Coast we should see more brill, hake, sardines and skate from Cornwall, while there are also very good supplies of haddock expected at Grimsby. Prices should be competitive. There are also better supplies of squid and plaice. The outlook is less favourable for cod. Danish supplies are still scarce, although Faroese and Icelandic landings should be better. A word of warning from the UK's trout farmers: some farms are struggling to survive and prices are expected to rise in the near future.

Source: M&J Seafood 01296 588221

Fresh produce Leafy greens are now in abundance, including some fantastic curly kale (also known as borecole). This staple winter vegetable is extremely hardy, and is even able to withstand heavy frosts. It's an essential ingredient in the traditional Scottish soup kail brose. Other leaves, including the unusual Russian kale, Italian chicoria and fresh cardoon are also now arriving. Meanwhile, fresh crosnes are expected on the market any day now, and the new-season UK Brussels sprout tops are proving more and more popular year on year.

If you want carving pumpkins, our advice is to preorder before the end of the month, as supplies invariably run short around the 30th and 31st for the Hallowe'en rush.

On the fruit front, limequats are now in back in season. These are baby limes about the size of kumquats. They have a short season, so use them now. Fresh dates are also available, and are a popular winter fruit leading up to Christmas. Fresh blackberries, however, are now extremely short on the market, consequently the prices are astronomically high.

Source: Chef's Connection 020 7627 4809

English lamb is still wonderful, fairly priced and at its fullest flavour. Red-legged partridge is still the best game at the moment, although pheasants are getting towards the prime of their season, which will come in November. Supplies of mallard, teal and snipe should improve this week as the weather gets better.

The best Scottish beef is still pricey because of a shortage on the market, but free-range pork is lovely and in good supply.

Source: Aubrey Allen 024 7642 2222

…And how you can use them

Sticky date and walnut pudding

(Serves four)
Date purée
40g dates (stoned)
25ml water
30g unsalted butter
75g soft dark brown sugar
1 whole beaten egg
100g soft flour
5g baking powder
40g chopped walnuts
Toffee sauce
130ml double cream
70g caster sugar
25g glucose
25g unsalted butter

Place the dates and the water into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for three to four minutes. Leave to cool in the pan and then blitz with a hand blender or purée in a bar blender.

For the pudding, sieve the flour and the baking powder together. Cream the butter and the sugar together until it's light and fluffy. While beating, gradually add the egg. Fold in the flour. Fold in the date pur‚e and the walnuts. Bake in individual greased moulds in an oven preheated to 180¡C for 10-15 minutes.

For the toffee sauce, reserve half of the cream. Combine the cream, sugar, glucose and butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Stir continuously over a medium heat until the sauce is a golden-brown colour. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining cream.

Turn out the puddings and serve with hot toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream and chopped walnut pieces.

Darren Purchese, head pastry chef, 1880 at the Bentley Kempinski, London

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