On the home produce front, Lincolnshire cauliflowers have survived the recent cold snap admirably, and Bedfordshire-grown Tundra cabbages - as their name suggests - positively thrive at this time of year. Further afield, new-crop Cyprus potatoes have a gorgeous creamy texture and clean, savoury taste. They make excellent jackets and are superb sliced and sautéd. South African plums are in short supply this year, so their price is up, but they are excellent. Lemons show no sign of becoming more plentiful. Long, slender, tender new-crop Italian bunched carrots are bright, sweet and delicious.
The frost hasn't hit Israeli minneolas they have arrived on time and are juicy, practically seedless easy-peelers. They have a sharp grapefruity edge, making them excellent for breakfast or for balancing oily meats. Duck with caramelised minneola segments on a bed of pousses is divine. Seville oranges are also at their absolute best right now.
Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com
The foul weather in Scotland has meant scallops are hard to come by from up north, but there are some from the South Coast around. There is excellent large bass around at about £17.50 per kg, as well as good pollack and ling. Dover sole prices are dropping as they move inshore to spawn, and there is nice day-boat squid and red gurnard on the market. Mackerel is still difficult to source in the South-west, but large fish are in good supply from Scotland. The first of the smoked cod roe should be on the market soon as well.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
The high prices in the beef market caused by the ban on exports in Brazil is forcing other meats up. Standard chicken is up about 5% in price, with supplies in the top end of the market scarce after the recent bout of free-range publicity. Lamb is up 10-12% and pork is also dearer, with a lot coming from abroad and the euro not working in our favour. With the game season ending and pigeon and rabbit scarce, there are few worthwhile recommendations, so just see what deal you can do with your supplier.
Source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
Warm flourless orange cake with vanilla ice-cream
(Serves about 12)
375g ground almonds
375g caster sugar
9 whole eggs, beaten
500ml sugar syrup
2tbs Grand Marnier
Cut the oranges in half and simmer for two hours till soft. Cool down, then scoop the insides out and discard them but retain the rind (pith and zest). Place the orange rind in a food processor and blend. Transfer the purée to a large mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, sugar and eggs to the bowl and mix well.
Place the mixture in buttered muffin tins and baked in the oven at 140°C for 40-45 minutes, then let the cakes cool down. Place in a container and soak in sugar syrup and Grand Marnier for 3-4 hours. Then drain the cakes.
To serve, place on a dessert plate or bowl and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top.
Daniele Camera, executive chef, Alloro, Dover Street, London