British peas and broad beans have now started in earnest, as have borlotti beans from France and heirloom tomatoes, as well as black, pink and white varieties from across the Channel. French apricots have also now started, while cherries are sweet, juicy and cheap at present. On the soft-fruit front Gooseberries and blackcurrants are of good quality, while strawberries, redcurrants and blackberries are all stable.
Button onions are still a bit short but should be improving, while girolles are down in price. Wild and chicken of the woods mushrooms from Scotland will be starting soon.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
Consumers going away in June, July and August and a disinclination to turn on their ovens means a drop in trade of up to 40% for butchers, which sees them struggling to shift a lot of their animals.
Now is as good a time as any to phone your supplier and see what deals are on offer. For example, ours is doing half-pigs for £95, 50% cheaper than normal. Other good buys are legs of pork, pork chops, shoulders of lamb or anything, really, that has the stigma of fattiness surrounding it.
With roasting joints dropping in price, don't be put off by the idea of doing a carvery on the weekend just because of the weather. Although people are loath to turn their ovens on at home, carveries can still prove popular in restaurants.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
The main news of note this week is a crash in native lobster prices. Calm weather and more fishing has seen an abundance arrive on the market, offering a great option for your menu. The first crayfish have arrived from the Scilly Isles and there are plenty of dab and mackerel.
Squid is bad at the moment, so a good idea is to substitute it with cuttlefish. There is lots of good John Dory, hake, line-caught pollack, large sea trout from Scotland, English wild salmon, albeit at a high price, and plenty of good crab meat coming from Cornwall.
One fish to consider is grey mullet, an underused fish which is popular on the Continent. It cooks very like bass but is a third of the price and will be available right through the summer.
There is still plenty of sea beet, samphire and sea purslane available.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Poached egg and pea purée with Joselito ham, English asparagus and olive crisp
Ingredients (Serves four)
50g Joselito ham (including fat and lean)
4 duck eggs
250g cooked fresh peas
100g cooked frozen peas
75ml concentrated chicken stock
50ml vegetable nage
16 asparagus spears
Fleur de sel
4 slices black olive baguette, dried
Cut the ham into large bits, place in oil and confit on low heat for two hours, then leave to cool. Poach duck eggs in lightly salted water, drain and reserve in iced cold water.
Make pea purée by liquidising fresh peas with 25ml stock and nage. Strain liquidised peas and add 25ml more stock to get the right consistency, then blend again with frozen peas to create dark-green colour. Season well. Take ham from confit, flake and place in 25ml stock. Pare asparagus spears then blanch in salted water.
To serve, place warm pea purée and moist flaked ham on the plate. Add the reheated poached egg and asparagus coated with olive oil. Season with fleur de sel and pepper. Finish with a hint of reserved fat.
Serve with slices of olive baguette brushed with a little extra virgin olive oil.
by Anton Escalera, head chef, Alimentum, Cambridge