The first of the French partridges should be arriving at the end of the week, with birds costing no more than £3 each. Grouse continues to be excellent, with prices around the £7 mark per bird, while you can expect to pay around £1.60 for a good-quality wood pigeon. On the beef front, there has been reluctance from UK farmers to send their cattle into the markets over the past few weeks in the hope of raising prices through short availability, while good trading across Europe has also meant that prices for Irish beef have remained firm. Round cuts are good value because strong prices are still being achieved from the forequarter cuts and this is expected to continue with schools, colleges and universities returning through September. Although rump steaks are still available at sensible prices, be aware of potential increases later in the year as festive menus feature steak alongside turkey.
Sources: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 / Birtwistle butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
This is the last week for wild salmon but there are plenty of other fish on the market at present. Good large turbot have been landed on the north Devon coast while Cornish sardines and line-caught mackerel are in good supply as are line-caught bass, John Dory and monkfish, available for about £10.50 per kg. Scottish halibut is a good buy while Icelandic cod and haddock are as reliable as ever. Excellent quality large eels from Norfolk are available smoked at £12.50 per kg. Freshwater crayfish are in full season and there are plenty of razor clams and diver-caught scallops. Our supplier has a good supply of cockles, which have been problematic elsewhere.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707
Bramley and Discovery apples are great at present while a few early Worcesters should be coming in now. The French apple season has started, Galas are expected to arrive next week and Goldens, reds and Grannies should follow within the next fortnight. However, prices remain high and it's not likely they'll move down until mid-September.
English courgettes remain excellent and home-produced yellow courgettes are cropping, albeit sporadically, despite the cold, windy weather. English sweet corn obviously loved the recent rain and is very sweet and juicy. Runner beans and bobby beans remain top choices. On the wild front there are some good quality giant puffball mushrooms around, as well as Swiss chard-like sea beet while blackberries are in great, juicy condition. For something different try fennel flowers, an umbrella shaped ingredient that gives an earthy, intense fennel taste and should be used sparingly.
Roast pigeon with braised butter beans and wild mushrooms
Ingredients (Serves four)
4 large squab pigeons
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
2 shallots, roughly chopped
100ml white wine
150ml chicken stock
150ml veal or beef stock
Salt and pepper
300g dry butter beans, soaked overnight and simmered in water with a bay leaf, a stick of celery but no salt for about two hours until soft
150g wild mushrooms, cleaned
Remove the pigeons' wishbones and neck bones and keep to one side. Divide the shallots between the four pigeon cavities, together with the thyme and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper and push a cocktail stick though the legs to secure.
Fry the removed bones with the roughly chopped shallots for a few minutes, add the brandy, bring to the boil, then add the Madeira and white wine, reduce by half, add the stocks and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and reduce to a slightly thick sauce.
Preheat the oven to 220°C, place the pigeons in a tray, season with salt and pepper and spread the butter over the breasts. Roast in the hot oven for eight minutes, baste with any juices and butter and turn them over to be breast down. Cook for a further four minutes for a pink bird, six to eight minutes for well done.
Remove from the oven and place on a warm tray to rest, pour away any fat, deglaze with the sauce scraping up the goodness left in the tray and strain back into a clean saucepan.
Reheat the butter beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook the wild mushrooms in some hot olive oil and season.
Remove the pigeon legs and cook in the oven for a further four minutes while you carve the breasts. Arrange the beans and mushrooms on four heated plates. Place the breasts on top and finally the legs. Pour the sauce over. When in season garnish with some skinned broad beans.
Bryan Webb, chef-patron, Tyddyn Llan, Llandrillo, Denbighshire, North Wales.
Taken from Bryan Webb's Kitchen, published by Graffeg. Available in bookshops and online at www.graffeg.com, priced £14.99