Greengages (reine-claudes in French) have now started, and are juicy and delicious. Very sweet and aromatic Muscat grapes are also now arriving. Wet almonds and cobnuts are also on the market.
Jerusalem artichokes from Israel are coming through, while there are plenty of girolles (above) from Scotland. Baby leaf salad production has slowed in the hot weather, as have green-leafed and white pak choi, which is suffering from flea beetle. British spinach is also short, but will improve with cooler weather.
Padrón peppers are available now from Spain. These are small, mild, sweet chillies, although one in about every 30 will blow your head off. The Spanish eat them as if they were playing Russian roulette. Romanesco - an underused, green cauliflower-like veg - has also started.
Source: Fresh Direct, 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
Meat This weekend sees the start of the grouse season. Despite some negative reports, numbers are expected to be satisfactory and, with the first shoots happening over the weekend, there should be plenty of guns out. Prices on each bird (below) will be around the £15-£20 mark, but this will fall away quite quickly within two or three weeks.
A combination of some wetter weather tightening supply at home and the Continental export market heating up for the holiday season means that lamb has shot up in price this week, by about 9% at wholesale. Rungis market in Paris is apparently full of British lamb, with buyers happy to pay a premium price. Legs, best ends and saddles are the worst affected. Prices should calm down once holiday-makers return home over the next few weeks.
Beef and pork are both stable.
Source: Nigel Fredericks, 020 8905 9005, www.nigelfredericks.co.uk
Fish The red mullet fishery in Cornwall is in full swing, and you won't get better red mullet at any other time of the year. There are also good John Dory being landed, as well as black bream and good, large pollack. Dover soles have at last come down in price by about 25%.
Crabs are currently not at their best. The males, especially, are shedding their shells and you don't get much meat for the size. The situation will be better by mid-September.
It's also the final three weeks of the salmon and sea trout season, so get hold of the fish while you can. Also from Scotland are some very good razor clams.
Source: Chef Direct, 01275 474707, www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Summer cod salad with fruit aïoli
Ingredients (Serves four)
450g salt cod loin
6 piquillo peppers, finely chopped
1 orange, peeled and segmented
60g black olives, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
300ml olive oil
250ml pomace oil
2 egg yolks
100g white grapes, peeled
1 pear, peeled
Juice of one orange
Soak the cod in cold water for 30 hours, changing water every five hours or so. Make sure the water covers the cod at all times.
Remove cod from the water and pat dry. Put the oil in a frying pan and heat with the garlic, chilli and bay leaf for 10 minutes on a low heat. Remove the ingredients from the oil. Keep the flavoured oil and reserve the garlic separately. Add the cod to the oil and confit for eight minutes.
Once cooked, take the cod out and dry on kitchen paper. Remove skin and flake the flesh. Put a layer of flaked cod in a ring, cover with the piquillo peppers, then the olives and cover these with the remaining cod. Place the orange on the top and garnish with the remaining piquillo.
For the fruit aïoli (enough for about eight portions), put the reserved garlic cloves in a mortar and crush. Add the yolk. Work in the pomace oil with the pestle, a little at a time, to emulsify the aïoli sauce.
In a sauté pan, warm the fruits and the orange juice until soft (about eight minutes). Blend them in a Thermomix, then add the fruit compote slowly to the garlic mayonnaise until it reaches a creamy consistency.
Finally, heat the cod in a hot oven for two minutes. Remove the ring on a plate and serve with the fruit aïoli on the side.
Oskar Reboredo, head chef, L-Restaurant, London