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Lobsters, nectarines, sardines

17 August 2006

Fresh produce

There are a few problems with strawberries coming from Holland and Belgium because of hot weather. With the new crop also struggling, there will be a delay until quality fruit arrives, and prices have gone up accordingly. The first of the new season English Discovery apples are also now appearing. From the Continent flat peaches and nectarines continue to go down a storm with chefs, thanks to their fantastic flavour. The quality of English icebergs has also been suffering slightly, while native cauliflowers are coming through small.

Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk

Fish

Lobsters are still cheap, and will stay so until the temperature drops, when numbers fall off. As a guide, when that happens prices will go up from about £15.50 per kg to £22.50.

After last weekend's high tide, net fishing should be back to normal. Cornish sprats and sardines are plentiful, as are mackerel, red mullet and black bream. There should also be good numbers of wild bass and line-caught pollack, while native squid is in excellent condition.

Poor visibility has reduced the numbers of diver-caught scallops being found in Scotland. A spell of bad weather will improve the situation. It's also the last couple of weeks of the wild salmon and grilse season in Scotland.

Expect higher prices on cod for the rest of the month. Icelandic fishermen have used up their entire quota for August, meaning there will be less fish on the market and anything landed by Scottish or Norwegian boats will be more expensive.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk

Meat

Lamb remains expensive because of the wet weather and demand from the Continent. Poultry prices have also risen slightly because of a shortage of Continental supplies. Beef and pork prices are stable.

Grouse shoots have started, but it will take a couple of weeks for birds to come through in any great numbers and for the price to come down.

Source: Nigel Fredericks 020 8905 9005 www.nigelfredericks.co.uk

Seasonal recipe

Local free-range chicken stuffed with tarragon mousse with creamed leeks and a ragoût of broad beans, asparagus and wild mushrooms

Ingredients
(Serves four)

For the tarragon mousse 150g chicken breast
150g cream
Large pinch of finely chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper
For the chicken
4 x 200g free-range chicken breasts

For the white wine sauce 20g unsalted butter
25g shallots, sliced
5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
50g cream
100ml dry white wine
500ml chicken stock
175g unsalted butter (to finish)

For the leek fondue 2 large leeks, cut into a small dice
100g cream
1 clove of garlic
To finish
200g mushrooms
Butter
12 asparagus tips
100g broad beans

Method For the mousse, blend chicken breast with a pinch of salt in a processor for about five minutes. Cool in fridge and repeat twice. Add 50g of cream and pass through fine sieve into a bowl. Place the bowl on ice and mix in remaining cream. Add the tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

Take each chicken breast, cut a pocket lengthways and fill with the mousse. Butter and season each breast, then place skin side down on to clingfilm. Roll up individually and fold in the ends. Place in fridge.

For white wine sauce, sweat shallots and garlic in 20g of butter without colouring. Add thyme and bay leaf and sweat for a further two minutes, add white wine and reduce to nothing. Add chicken stock and reduce by half, add cream and whisk in butter. Season and keep warm.

For leek fondue, trim and wash leeks, cut into a small dice, cook in boiling salted water. Once tender, refresh in iced water, strain and place on to a cloth to dry. Peel garlic and crush into a paste, add to cream and reduce until thick. Take 200g of cooked leek and fold it into cream, season with salt and pepper.

Heat a saucepan of hot water to 90ºC and poach each chicken breast for 12-15 minutes. Rest for a further 10 minutes, remove clingfilm. In a frying pan, slowly colour skin until golden and crisp in butter.

Meanwhile, pan-fry mushrooms in a little butter, salt and pepper, then add to white wine sauce. Cut asparagus tips to same length and peel broad beans from outer shell. Add to sauce and reheat.

Place creamed leeks in middle of each plate. Slice each breast into five rounds and place around outside of leeks. Serve three asparagus to each plate and spoon around mushrooms and broad beans with the sauce.

Simon Dow, head chef, Abode, Exeter, Devon

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