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Peppers, cauliflower, mallard, scallops

11 January 2007
Peppers, cauliflower, mallard, scallops

Meat

After the madness of December, low demand in January means there have been no phenomenal price rises, although, because some abattoirs didn't slaughter between Christmas and New Year, beef prices have strengthened marginally and are only being felt on the market now. Prices for legs of pork have collapsed in price, too, as is normal at this time of year. Again, this is a reaction to high prices in December which carried over into the first week of the new year but which couldn't be maintained. Prices traditionally rise again at the end of January. The final month for mallard, teal, partridge and pheasant is upon us and, while most suppliers did their killing to coincide with the pre-Christmas demand, mature birds will still be available for the next three weeks.

Source: Fairfax Meadow 01332 861200 www.fairfaxmeadow.co.uk

Fresh produce

The biggest news this week is a doubling in price of red, green and yellow peppers due to problems with weather in Spain. Also affected are salad tomatoes and French salad leaves, including rosso and frisée. Cornish and Welsh cauliflower is expensive at present, but good-quality medium-priced alternatives are arriving from France. Cold nights have meant that Israeli produce, especially celery and rocket, is also expensive. On the positive side, France is producing cheap, good-quality spinach, banana shallots and quinces, which should be taken advantage of before their imminent season end.

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

Fish

The market is starting to get back to normal after a disastrous last few weeks of 2006, capping what has been the worst sustained period of bad weather for many years. The first batch of scallops from Orkney to arrive since before Christmas has been landed, while langoustines are now coming in steadily again. Monkfish remains very expensive due to foreign demand, but there have been good landings of pollock, red mullet and bass. Channel Islands day boats have seen great landings of large, wild black bream, which, at £8.70 per kg, are a great option.

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

Seasonal recipe

Three-bird roast

Ingredients (Serves two)

20g butter
1 banana shallot
125g sausage meat
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g dried apricots
25g flaked almonds
5 leaves sage, finely sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pheasant, spatchcocked - remove all bones except the drumsticks (make sure you remove the thigh bones)
1 male duck breast, fat removed and trimmed, leaving no silver skin or sinew
1 pigeon, spatchcocked, with all bones and skin removed
1 large white onion
2 bay leaves
100ml demi-glace

For the bread sauce
1 shallot
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
375ml milk
30g fresh white breadcrumbs
Double cream to taste

Method In a thick-bottomed pan melt the butter, finely dice the shallot and add to the butter, cooking without colour. When soft, remove from the heat and mix in the sausage meat and breadcrumbs. Roughly chop the dried apricots and mix together. Toast the flaked almonds and add to the mix, finishing with the sage, and correct the seasoning.

Lay the pheasant on a chopping board, skin side down. Slice the duck breast horizontally but not quite all the way through. Open up the duck breast and lay on to the pheasant. Next, lay the prepared pigeon on top. Roll the stuffing into a sausage shape about 5cm in diameter and lay down the middle of the birds, in between the breasts. Carefully close the birds up by folding each side over, and then tie the roast with butcher's string to stop it coming apart. Season the roast and seal until golden brown in a hot pan. Place in a roasting tray. Finely slice the onion and spread around the roast along with the bay leaves. Pour about 4cm of hot water into the tray and cover with foil. Roast at 225°C for 30 minutes then remove the foil and take the roast out of the tray. Pour the stock and onions into a pan and then replace the roast in the tray. Return to the oven without foil for a further 15 minutes. Reduce the liquor from the roasting tray with the demi-glace until a thick sauce is obtained, and then either pass the sauce or leave the onions in for a more rustic gravy.

Once cooked, remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for eight minutes before carving. Serve with the gravy and bread sauce. Game chips are also a good accompaniment.

To make the bread sauce, peel the shallot and lay the bay leaf over. Attach the bay leaf to the shallot with the cloves, place in the milk and simmer. After 15 minutes remove the shallot and whisk in the breadcrumbs. Allow to stand for five minutes. Adjust the seasoning, then serve. A little double cream can be whisked in a the last minute for a richer sauce.

Craig James, head chef, Quaglino's, London

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