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Radicchio, garlic, John Dory, purple spruting broccoli

30 March 2006

Meat
All meat is getting dearer thanks to a shortage of imported beef from Argentina. Hyperinflation there has led to expensive food, and in a bid to placate a disgruntled nation, the government has banned the vast majority of beef being exported. Coupled with the continued threat of foot-and-mouth in Brazil, which has resulted in three states already being banned from exporting beef to the EU, imported beef prices have rocketed by up to 35%.

This has had a knock-on effect on other meat prices. Pork, for example, is also now about 10% more expensive compared with last month, exacerbated by falling demand for poultry on the Continent. On the best cuts of British beef, prices have also already risen by 15-20%.

Meanwhile, with the lifting of the ban on British exports, demand for quality British beef will also go up around Europe, and the forthcoming World Cup is expected to put further pressure on beef supplies.

Chefs should be careful not to put themselves in a straitjacket when planning menus over the next few months, and are advised to consult their butchers. Many suppliers which have contracts with big catering firms, restaurant and hotel chains may not be able to fulfil their obligations.

Source: Aubrey Allen 024 7642 2222 www.aubreyallenwholesale.co.uk

Fish Bad weather and high winds this week mean drops in prices from last week have been reversed. Most landings of native fish have been low, and there are short supplies of cod and plaice from Iceland and Denmark. Haddock may improve towards the end of the week.

There are, however, good supplies of John Dory from South Africa, and most exotic species should be plentiful.

The salmon situation is still getting worse, meanwhile, with farmed fish up about £1 per kg. Things don't look set to improve either.

Source: M&J Seafood 01296 333848 www.mjseafoods.com

Fresh produce There's plenty of radicchio on the market with tight heads and a really good colour. Some other Italian speciality produce like tardivo and wild trevisse is beginning to end, though.

Spanish asparagus and European white asparagus will be coming through in the next few weeks, while new season garlic is getting better all the time.

Purple sprouting broccoli is now in abundance, and outdoor rhubarb is beginning again in the UK. Kale, black cabbage and Brussels are finishing, though.

We should soon get the first of the European cherries, as well as loquats, traditionally the first of the European stone fruits to start again in spring.

Source: Chef's Connection 020 7627 4809 www.chefs-connection.com

Seasonal recipe
Malloreddus al radicchio e bottarga
Ingredients (Serves four)

400g Malloreddus pasta (looks a bit like filleted macaroni)
240g radicchio (one large radicchio), finely chopped
175ml Cannonau wine
50g finely grated bottarga (dried grey mullet or tuna roe)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
50g dill, finely chopped
150ml extra virgin olive oil
50g butter
Salt and pepper

Method Add the dill to 100ml extra virgin olive oil and leave to stand for a couple of hours. Heat half the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Take half of the chopped shallots and gently fry them until they're light brown. Add the glass of Cannonau wine and the garlic and leave to simmer until it reduces to about half its volume. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the reduction from the heat and strain it through a chinois to remove the shallot and garlic clove. Blanch the radicchio in hot water.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large frying pan and slowly cook the rest of the shallots until they start to brown. Add the blanched radicchio and the red wine reduction to the frying pan and return to the heat. Adjust the seasoning.

At the same time, heat a large saucepan of water. When it's boiling, add a pinch of salt and drop in the Malloreddus pasta. When the pasta is "al dente", drain the water and add pasta to the large frying pan. Toss the Malloreddus in the red wine and radicchio sauce over a medium flame. Remove the frying pan from the heat and mix in the butter and almost all of the bottarga.

Serve the pasta on the plates. Drizzle the olive oil marinated with dill over the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining bottarga over the top.

Roberto Sardu, head chef of Sardo, London

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