Rainfall over the past week is expected to boost supplies of green asparagus, but there is a shortage of swedes from Scotland and English onions, and prices are high.
Lancashire's Len Wright Salads is successfully producing Chinese leaves, and this year's crop is just ready. Things are looking up for herbs, too, with the arrival of English coriander, parsley, chives, mint and tarragon, Israeli herbs and basil.
Further afield, white asparagus is plentiful from Holland and France, while artichokes are in season in Spain and Italy, and purple-tinged medium heads are reasonably priced. Also available is French wet garlic with a zingier, fresher taste than old-season dried bulbs.
July is the month for easy-to-eat French flat peaches, but early Spanish ones are in, along with red pluots (a cross between a dark plum and an apricot).
Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com
Industrial action has seen the French buying in fish from the UK, which is resulting in higher local prices. This aside, there have been excellent landings of turbot, line-caught pollack and mackerel, and the wild salmon season is in full swing, with fish sourced largely from the rivers Severn and Wye.
Prices are dropping for the plentiful supply of lobsters and John Dory, and this week sees the first landings of Cornish herrings.
All shellfish are readily available, especially cockles from Devon, and good landings are also reported for sand eels from Devon.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707
The beef export ban in Argentina and foot-and-mouth concerns in Brazil continue to affect the supply of beef to the UK, but it doesn't stop there. Pork and chicken are also scarce, with a shortage of numbers and transport costs blamed for rising prices. On the plus side, spring lamb is in its prime, with good supplies available at reasonable prices.
Source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
Risotto of asparagus, lemon and fennel
Ingredients (Serves two)
For the risotto
200g fennel stock
30g diced onion
100g carnaroli rice
50g dry white wine
Pinch of salt
For the lemon confit
1.2 litres water
15ml olive oil
For the asparagus
10 green asparagus spears
Salt to taste
100g fennel stock
1 head fennel
25g Parmesan, grated
4 sprigs lemon thyme, picked
10g unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
To make the risotto, place the fennel stock on the stove and bring to a simmer. Sweat the onion in the butter in a separate pan until translucent. Add the rice and stir.
Add white wine and cook until dry, then add fennel stock gradually, to be absorbed before adding more. Continue until fennel stock has been used. The rice should be three-quarters cooked. Season.
Remove the rice from the pan and place on a tray. Allow to cool and place in the fridge.
For the lemon confit, peel the lemons with a knife, leaving the pith on the skin. Cut the skin into strips about 3mm wide, then cut into small squares. Place in a pan with 300ml water, bring to the boil and cook for about five minutes and drain. Repeat this process three more times, or until lemon pieces are soft and the bitterness has gone.
Warm the olive oil and dissolve the sugar, add the lemon and store until required.
For the asparagus, break the spears at the natural break line. Peel to about three-quarters of the way up. Bring water to the boil and season. Cook asparagus for two minutes or until tender. Refresh in iced water. When cold, drain. Cut the tips so they are about 3cm long from the top, then slice the bottoms and reserve.
To finish, drain the fennel and lemon mix. Place fennel stock on the stove and bring to a simmer. Cut the fennel heads into pieces and liquidise.
Put risotto into a pan and add stock slowly. Continue until rice is cooked. Remove from stove, add mascarpone and Parmesan and mix thoroughly, then return to stove. Add lemon, fennel, picked lemon thyme and sliced asparagus. Add juice from fennel to adjust consistency and add flavour. Season and serve.
Adam Simmonds, head chef, the Oak Room, Danesfield House, Marlow, Buckinghamshire