Spring's bounty might seem an age away, but Jersey Royal potatoes should start to appear within the next fortnight, although they're expected to be very dear. Sweet, waxy Italian new potatoes are larger than their Channel Islands counterparts, but just as tasty and much, much cheaper.
English root veg continues to excel. Turnips, swede, parsnips and carrots all look great and taste strong and wholesome. Sprout tops are tasty, squeaky fresh and very good value. Seville oranges are excellent at the moment, as are unwaxed leaf oranges and lemons from Italy, but the real citrus stars have to be blood oranges at the moment. Peach and nectarine supplies are now in full swing, Apricots are rather dear but are now sweet enough to eat raw. Handsome, red-maroon, Cape Sapphire plums have a refreshing, well-balanced, fruity, tannin-edged taste and it's a hearty thumbs-up for lychees - sweet, juicy and bursting with Muscat grape flavour.
Spanish Little Gems lettuces are more tender than Cos but have plenty of sweet taste. They look great on the plate, and halved and dressed can form the centrepiece of a salad. Cyprus coriander is fragrant, glossy and beautiful, the large bunches representing good value for the time of year.
Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com
The lack of Brazilian meat because of a ban on imports continues to dominate the beef market, having a knock-on effect and pushing up the price of other beef. Luckily the situation is being kept slightly in check by retailers, which are refusing to pay silly prices. Nevertheless, all cuts are up in price and whole carcasses by about 40%. The next week should be a good indicator of the extent of the situation, but we hope it won't be too serious and it's far from a panic.
Despite the bad publicity last week the poultry market is unaffected, while pork has eased in price, probably because of a hangover from Christmas hams. On the game front there are plenty of woodcock and late partridge, although pigeon and rabbit are harder to source.
The bad weather is continuing and landings are very tight. The forecast is the same for the next week, so the best advice is to buy when available and look to farmed fish for the next few weeks until the situation eases.
That said, a reasonable supply of shellfish is available, some nice squid from the West Country, some reasonable large brill and monkfish, some nice black bream and some large pollack, which continues to rise in price with its growing popularity. On the flip side, sardines and sardine fillets are virtually non-existent. This is slap-bang in the time of year for forced sea kale, available at about £6.50 per 250kg.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Smoked salmon and sea kale
Ingredients 20 sprigs of sea kale
Salt and pepper
8 slices of smoked salmon
3tbs crème fraîche
4tsp lemon juiceMethod
Sea kale is available predominantly in January and February in its forced variety, and should be treated similarly to asparagus.
Trim the end off and blanch in boiling water until cooked but still slightly al dente. Toss in olive oil and arrange five on a plate with two slices of smoked salmon. Mix crème fraîche and the lemon juice, place a teaspoonful on each plate and serve.
Liz Payne, head chef, Bordeaux Quay, Bristol