We're entering the peak time for many fruits - white peaches, flat peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries from all over Europe - with good quality produce and prices coming down almost daily.
Here, the hop-shoot season has now started and the first elderflowers are opening up. Sweet cicely will be around for the next two to three weeks, while wood sorrel is now at its best. Wild asparagus from France is in good supply, as is English asparagus, now in its prime, but nettles, spring greens and purple sprouting broccoli are all past their best.
St George's mushrooms are three times more expensive than last year, while we're still waiting on mousserons. The next two weeks will see girolles arrive from the Balkans and summer truffles are starting to ripen and will be at their cheapest and best in late June, July and August.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
Pork is down in price at present, especially any roasting products such as legs or breakfast meats like bacon. New spring lamb is very cheap if bought whole, but don't expect cheaper prices on legs as suppliers are reluctant to cut up the carcasses as they're being left with hard-to-sell shoulders. On the whole though, new-season lamb is 20% cheaper than this time last year
Hogget (old-season lamb) is around and cheap, but is best avoided as it will be of poor quality. Farmers tend to send their best lambs for slaughter in the lead-up to Easter, and so any meat on the market now will be from the poor-quality lambs still left in the field. Beef prices remain steady: rib-eye, fillet and sirloin steaks have all risen 20% in price over the past month, with roasting joints down 20%. If you're considering a carvery, rump would be a good option as it's the same price as - and arguably tastier than - topside.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
Landings have been even worse than last week. There are very few langoustines and scallops. The best options at present are wild sea trout, available at £17.50 per kg, and wild salmon, more expensive at £25 per kg. Cheaper fish are also worth considering: mackerel, lemon sole and turbot are all good options, as are small John Dory.
Dover sole is very expensive so best avoided, and gulls' eggs have now finished. Sea beet is in good supply, as is the slightly more expensive sea purslane, an excellent choice for a crab salad. A poor Canadian lobster season has seen the price of native lobsters rise by about £2 per kg compared with this time last year.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
‘Maribels' milk fritters, rhubarb compote, red wine and mascarpone ice-cream
Ingredients (Serves eight)
For the milk fritters
1litre semiskimmed milk
Pinch of salt
150g runny honey
25g unsalted butter
3 strips of peeled lemon zest, pith removed
1 vanilla pod, split
4 large eggs
Extra cornflour for dusting
1-2 beaten eggs for coating
For the rhubarb compote
4 sticks rhubarb
1 star anise
For the red wine and mascarpone ice-cream
5tbs natural yogurt
25g red wine vinegarMethod
For the fritters, combine cornflour, milk, salt, honey, butter, lemon zest, vanilla pod and eggs together. Mix and whisk well and put into a saucepan, then bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Boil for a few minutes, the mixture will thicken.
Remove the vanilla pod and lemon zest. Rub through a strainer and pour mix into a tray. Allow to cool and set in the fridge. Turn out and cut into 1in cubes. Heat a fat fryer to 170°C. Dust cubes in cornflour, coat in beaten egg, then cornflour again, and deep-fry until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and dust with icing sugar.
For the compote, carefully remove strings from rhubarb, cut sticks into 2in-long pieces, blanch in boiling water, drain, allow to cool. Place the water, sugar, star anise, orange zest and juice of orange in a pan, allow to reduce by half, pour boiling hot over the rhubarb and leave to go cold.
For the ice-cream, boil sugar and water to a light syrup and allow to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients together, add to the chilled syrup mix and churn in ice-cream machine.
To serve, place four hot fritters, some rhubarb compote and a scoop/quenelle of ice-cream.
Nigel Mendham, head chef, the Samling hotel, WindermereThe Samling Hotel >>