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Mussels, Butternut, Grouse

16 August 2007 by
Mussels, Butternut, Grouse

Fresh produce

Soft fruits are still just about on the market. Raspberries and strawberries are almost finished, while cherries are now ridiculously expensive, having moved from Europe to Canada. Apricots are coming to an end but damsons are just starting, although they won't be at their best until September.

Cos and Romaine lettuces are excellent at present, and Jerusalem artichokes and red chicory are both starting soon, although baby violet artichokes are rising in price.

On the mushroom front, chanterelles, Scottish girolles and trompettes are all available on the market. Garlic is excellent at present, as are peas, but the broad bean crop is tailing off.

Finally, we're just on the threshold of the pumpkin and squash season, with new season Provence butternut squashes, chestnut pumpkins and Muscadet pumpkins all arriving.

Source: Fruits and Roots - 07812 051575

Fish

Salmon prices are on the rise. Improved weather in the UK has brought an upturn in trade, so increasing demand, and the foot-and-mouth situation seems to have done the same.

Lemon sole, plaice and pollack are all holding their prices and are readily available. Coley and wild bass are slightly less abundant, with the latter steeply up in price. Codlings are also up in price because of a lack of supply from Ireland.

All shellfish - cockles, mussels, razor clams - are in good supply.

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

Meat

Despite scare-mongering in the press, the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak is nothing but a small blip.

While farmers' livelihoods will be under stress, it does offer an opportunity for restaurateurs. The ban on exports, combined with continued imports, has left a surplus of meat on the UK market. Any savings will probably be swallowed up by the abattoirs and the wholesalers but there are definitely deals to be done, especially if you can go directly to a farmer.

While lamb and pork will be affected, the biggest price decrease will be with beef. The grouse season officially started on Monday, but the birds will stay expensive for the next week or two, after which they will almost halve in price.

It is worth noting, for those inexperienced with game, that most countrymen won't touch the birds until well into October, once we have had the first frost. When the night temperature drops, the birds are not as well and keep significantly better.

Source: The Ginger Pig - 020 7935 7788

Seasonal recipe

Tonka bean rice pudding with stewed damsons

Ingredients (Makes four portions)

For the rice pudding

200g short-grain pudding rice
80g caster sugar
500ml milk
100ml whipped double cream
1 good pinch of grated tonka beans

For the damsons

400g damsons, stones removed
100g caster sugar
50ml brandy
1 cinnamon stick

Method

To make the rice pudding, place rice in a sieve, wash and put in a heavy bottomed pan with the milk, sugar and tonka beans. Simmer gently until tender (about 25 minutes). Place cooked rice back into a sieve to allow excess milk to run off, then cool. Put drained rice into a bowl then fold in the double cream.

For the damsons, place all ingredients in a pan and simmer gently until fruits are cooked and have a loose jam consistency. Remove cinnamon stick.

To serve, place a good spoon of rice pudding in a bowl with a generous helping of damson.

Mike North, the Nut Tree Inn, Murcott, Oxfordshire

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