Greengages are very good, although other plums are proving more expensive and the quality of Victoria plums is not great. Cherries are coming to an end from the Continent, although there will be air-freighted crops from the USA. The last English strawberries are also now losing sweetness, although there are still good Fraises des Bois and Mara des Bois from France.
Due to hot weather followed by rain, speciality salad leaves from France and Spain are expensive, as are cauliflowers and courgettes. There are, however, some good yellow and round courgettes (below right) coming from France. Artichokes are also short. French main-crop mid-season potatoes are now in and are bringing prices down.
Autumn is on the way, with good new-crop French pumpkins, while from Spain look out for cardoons (below) - perfect braised in butter and stock and with plenty of seasoning.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
The weather has been steadier this week, so prices have stabilised and there has been some excellent John Dory from the Bristol Channel. Line-caught pollack, turbot, squid, lemon soles and cuttlefish are also plentiful. Dover soles are still very dear, however. There have also been a few Cornish crayfish about. Cod prices have eased slightly but are still high.
In Scotland, the scallop situation has improved, and there is an abundance of grilse as the season ends. There is also a good supply of razor clams (left). Tuna has been a bit short, thanks to the continuing difficulties at airports. Fish is getting through, but there have been delays.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Trade is fairly stable this week although lamb is still expensive. Looking ahead, however, there is a concern over beef. Some suppliers are saying there is a shortage of livestock, both at home and on the Continent. Once demand picks up after the holiday season and children are back at school, this could mean price increases. There should be a clearer idea in the next few weeks.
Source: Nigel Fredericks 020 8905 9005 www.nigelfredericks.co.uk
Prawn and courgette dumplings with a clear consommé
For the prawn consommé (enough for 12)
1 litre water
300g prawn heads
50ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5g fresh ginger
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
60g white onions, coarsely chopped
100g fresh tomato, coarsely chopped
Small handful fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
Small handful fresh mint, coarsely chopped
For the prawn and courgette filling
150g courgettes, diced
50g white onions, chopped
70g girolles, chopped
100ml olive oil
100g fresh raw prawns, diced
5 mint leaves, chopped
5 coriander leaves, chopped
Pinch curry powder
Juice of one lime
Pinch white pepper
25ml mayonnaise (olive oil-based)
For the purée
12 dim sum dough discs
Handful of fresh almonds
4 sprigs fresh mint
For the consommé, in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and gently fry the prawn heads until caramelised, then add all remaining dry ingredients. When onions are softened and slightly browned, add water and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove excess grease from surface, if necessary. Drain through muslin into a bowl and leave to cool on a bed of ice.
For the filling, in a hot pan, fry the courgettes, white onions, girolles and prawns one by one with some olive oil. Then add remaining ingredients, except mayonnaise. Cook until all liquid evaporates. Cool quickly on ice. Season and add the mayonnaise and keep to one side.
For the purée, boil courgettes in salted water until tender. Plunge into iced water to refresh, then purée in a food processor with butter. Place in muslin over a bowl, allowing any excess water to drain. Season well.
Place one heaped teaspoon of prawn and courgette filling into centre of a dumpling disc. Fold in half, forming a half-moon, pressing the edges together to seal. Make 12 dumplings. Steam immediately over boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Maintain high heat throughout steaming.
On a soup plate, place three spoons of courgette purée, and drizzle over the prawn consommé. Place three dumplings on each plate. Scatter fresh almonds, add a dash of almond oil and a sprig of fresh mint to serve.
Antonin Bonnet, executive head chef, the Greenhouse, London