22 March 2007


Strong gales across Scotland in the past week have put paid to supplies of langoustines and diver-caught scallops, though small quantities of razor clams are emerging from the isle of Arran. England's south-coast suppliers have had a better week. There's good black bream coming from the Channel Islands, bass is more plentiful than last week and there are good supplies of line-caught inshore pollack. Lemon sole is currently a good buy but Dover sole is starting to fill with roe, so larger fish should be avoided. As English squid reaches the end of its season, supplies have become lower, and prices higher. In contrast, shellfish are generally in good supply, but mussels are spawning soon, so it's worth talking to your supplier about quality and meat content, before purchasing. Norway is currently yielding plentiful supplies of cod, haddock and halibut.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707

Fresh produce

Soft fruit continues to be very pricey at the moment, in particular raspberries and blackberries. Good-quality Spanish strawberries are coming through. The very first English asparagus appeared at market last week, but the cold weather might put a stop to those supplies. However, there is some early Spanish asparagus to fall back on. English cauliflower is very good quality currently, as are wild leeks from Scotland.

On the exotic front, custard apples have started to come into the country, along with nice Colombian yellow pawpaw and Colombian yellow pitaya. Good baby bananas are also available. Organic leafy lemons are arriving from Sicily, while clementines, also on the leaf, are being sourced from Morocco.

Looking ahead, wood sorrel will be coming through in a week or so.

Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600


There's now no shortage of new-season lamb, which is delivering very good sweetbreads and liver, as well as its sweet meat. Rabbit and wood pigeon is also plentiful, but hare and venison are pretty much over for another season. Somerset wild boar offers the chance to bring a touch of drama to your menu meanwhile, rare pork breeds such as Gloucester Old Spot and Tamworth are readily available. English beef remains of good quality, while, from across the Channel, French squab pigeons are good and easy to find.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707

Seasonal recipe
Pollack, cockles and sea beet

Pollack is most certainly the new cod: its dense flesh has earned it a real following since the plight of the cod has become news. Pollack must be eaten very fresh because it loses its sweet, delicate flavour very quickly. We serve it very simply with cockles and wild greens.

(Serves four)

100g butter
3 diced shallots
100ml dry white wine
600g cockles
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1tbs oil
Salt and pepper
4 x 180g skinned pollack fillets
250g sea beet (or 400g spinach)


Melt 40g butter in a large sauté pan. Sweat the shallots until transparent. Add the wine and bring to the boil. Empty the cockles into the pan. Boil, cover and simmer for about five minutes until they all open. Remove the flesh from the shells and squeeze lemon juice over it. Keep hot in the cooking liquor.

Season the pollack fillets and sear them in half the remaining butter and oil. Fry them so they colour lightly on both sides.

Blanch the sea beet for about three minutes in salted water. Drain and add the rest of the butter. (Spinach leaves reduce much more during cooking, so use extra if you choose these.) Spoon cockles and their liquor over the fish and accompany with sea beet.

The sweetness of the pollack and the saltiness of the cockles and their cooking liquor work perfectly with the really intense iron punch of the sea beet. This is so much better when all done to order.

The bones of pollack also make a great base for a chowder, there is much meat to be had from the head and goodness from the bones.

Peter Weeden, chef, the Paternoster Chop House, London

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