English soft fruits are starting to hit the market, with good-quality strawberries and raspberries both reasonably priced. Wet garlic is also now in season, and is delicious roasted whole like an onion. English and French tomatoes are now available in good quality but onions are highly priced and baby onions virtually non-existent. Wild asparagus from France has started its short four- to six-week season, while, on the mushroom front, mousserons have finally arrived after the wet weather. Spring greens are in good quality and Jersey Royals have come down in price.
Items worth avoiding are all root vegetables, Jersusalem artichokes, which are now on the way out, and baking potatoes, which are scarce and very bad quality.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
Increased popularity across the board means there are few opportunities to be made on cuts of meat. A good bet at present, though, would be pork loins, which have dropped in price as the demand for bacon lessens, while belly prices are staying strong.
Lamb loins and lamb chumps, which, when pan-fried, give excellent portions for one, are also good considerations for the coming weeks.
The onset of the barbecue season sees the trend towards beef rib-eye steaks continue to grow, at the cost of rumps, which have dropped in price by 20% compared with this time five years ago, while fore-rib prices have risen by 30% over the same period. This means rump is a cheap option if you want to buck the trend.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
Bad weather has meant there have not been many landings all week. As a result, turbot prices, normally low this time of year, have not come down. Line-caught bass is a problem, as is pollock.
On the plus side, monkfish and Cornish hand-line mackerel are both excellent options, while there is plenty of crab, lobster and Scottish scallops. Wild salmon is also available, as is the better-value sea trout.
Although the season ended on Tuesday, the last gulls' eggs will be available for the next two weeks. Finally, there have been problems with mussels, which, due to the warm weather, are spawning for the second time this year, when normally they do so only once annually.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Pickled mackerel with sorrel, capers and watercress
4 medium double mackerel fillets
For the pickle marinade
250ml white wine vinegar
100ml white wine
2tbs olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 stick celery, thinly chopped
1 chilli, chopped
4 fresh bay leaves
2tsp fennel seeds
4 star anise
For the salad
To serve Rye toast
Pinbone the mackerel fillets. Cut into fillets, rinse one-by-one under cold water. Dry in a cloth, place in pairs into 125ml Kilner jars with skin side facing out.
To make the marinade, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste and divide the pickle liquor, vegetables and spices evenly between the jars while still hot. Add some fresh chopped herbs on top of each one, close the lids and cool at room temperature. Refrigerate.
Serve with rye toast and a dressed salad of shredded sorrel, capers and watercress.
James Mackenzie, chef-proprietor, the Pipe & Glass Inn, South Dalton, East Yorkshire