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Mushrooms, grouse, pollack

21 August 2008

Meat

With the grouse season in full swing, prices are dropping fast. Expect to pay about £9 per bird for now, with it going down to £7 per bird in a fortnight.

There are also good quality guinea fowl, Aylesbury ducks and Cobb chickens available.

Gloucester Old Spot suckling pigs are in good supply, and the abattoir ban on English ox cheeks has been lifted in Somerset, where they are readily available.

Young lambs are in bountiful quantity, as are lamb sweetbreads, and ox tails are plentiful (perhaps because, try as it might, the weather's not quite cold enough for those dishes yet).

There are plenty of wood pigeons available, and the partridge and wild mallard seasons will be starting in a fortnight.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707

Fresh

Mushrooms are becoming more plentiful, with girolles from Poland and Scotland still in good condition.

Trompettes and pieds de mouton from France are starting to come through, too, as are grey and yellow chanterelles (right) - marking the start of the season. Caesar mushrooms are plentiful, as are summer truffles, for which you can expect to pay £160-£200 per kg.

Cocoa beans from Provence are in good supply, and English peas and broad beans are good quality at the moment. English marsh samphire is in excellent condition, and baby plum tomatoes on the vine from Sicily are still coming through.

In terms of fruit, greengages and Mirabelle plums are in abundance, with white and yellow peaches and black figs from Provence emerging.

Sources: 4°C 020 8558 9708www.4degreesc.com: Wild Harvest 020 7498 5397www.wildharvestuk.com

Fish

Good landings of line-caught pollack and mackerel from Cornwall mean that they are plentiful, and large plaice are of excellent quality at the moment, reasonably priced at £7.50 per kg.

Good quantities of large gurnard mean that prices are continuing to hold steady at £7.50 per kg, and Scottish hake is abundant and in good quality, fairly priced at £7.05 per kg for a large fish.

We're just reaching the last fortnight of the wild salmon season, with the smaller grilse variety costing £12.95 per kg.

Diver-caught scallops and razor clams from Scotland are plentiful, and cod and haddock from Iceland are still in good supply.

Crabs and lobsters from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset are still coming thick and fast, and the squid season is about to start, which means you can expect to see prices falling as larger landings come in.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707

Roast young grouse with herb stuffing, Penderyn sauce and whinberry preserve

Ingredients
(Serves four)

For the whinberry preserve
500g fresh whinberries
100ml Black Mountain liqueur
2tsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp green peppercorns, crushed

For the grouse
2 medium shallots, chopped
4 whole young grouse with their livers
50g butter
1/2tsp Halen Mon sea salt
10 green peppercorns, crushed
3tsp fresh parsley and thyme, hopped
2 slices wholemeal bread, crumbed
100ml Penderyn whisky
4 rashers fat streaky bacon, unsmoked
100g fresh tomato pulp, sieved
100ml stock, game or chicken

Method
Whinberries are small berries similar to small blueberries, and grow all over the mountains of Wales. The renowned Sugar Loaf Mountain near Llanwrtyd Wells is covered in low bushes of whinberries, and a bountiful harvest can be gathered when grouse come into season.

Place the whinberries in a stainless pan and add the liqueur. Simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes until the fruit is soft. Taste for sweetness, adding a little sugar if necessary. Add the balsamic and pepper, cook for a further minute then cool and refrigerate in a sealed jar until use.

Heat oven to 230°C.

Fry the shallots in half the butter until soft. Chop the livers and add to the shallots, cooking for a few seconds to colour. Add some of the sea salt and half the peppercorns, 2tsp herbs and breadcrumbs. Mix well off the heat to make a stuffing. Moisten with half the whisky.

Put this mixture into the cavities of each grouse, being careful not to overfill and leaving plenty of space for air to circulate. Lightly oil and cover each with a rasher of bacon cut in half and placed in a criss-cross over the breasts.

Put the birds, breasts up, into a roasting tray that takes the four birds snugly. Put into oven and roast for 15 minutes, season and baste halfway through, then check they are cooked by pressing the breasts with the flat of a spoon - the breast should be just firm.

Put on to a warmed serving platter and cover with a tent of foil to keep warm on the hob, or in a very low oven. Place roasting tray on a medium hob, add some of the whisky and the wine to deglaze all the caramelised bits. Add stock and tomato and cook to reduce to a silky consistency. Season with green peppercorns and sea salt, add herbs and remaining whisky, then the butter in small pieces to make the sauce glossy.

Serve the grouse whole or cut each in half, right through the bone, and place on warm plates topped with bacon, with the stuffing on the side. Spoon a little of the sauce around each grouse and put that remaining in a bowl. Serve with game chips and a fresh green vegetable, plus whinberry preserve.

Mary Ann Gilchrist, chef-patron, Carlton Riverside, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys

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