With rain forecast through August, a lot of summer produce will struggle this year. A lack of sunshine is threatening the mushroom crop, meaning they spring up singularly rather than in blushes, and the damp conditions make it easier for slugs to get at them. A couple of exceptions are field mushrooms and girolles, both of which are on the go at present.
Cloudy days have also affected the northern European crop of strawberries and cherries, which are noticeably lacking in sweetness this year, but good cherries are arriving from further south. Staying with soft fruit, wait to see whether it rains this Sunday(15 July) for this year's raspberry crop. The old wives' tale goes that if it rains on St Swithin's Day, it'll rain for the next 40 days. With a semblance of truth in the story, and a lack of sun so far this summer, it could mean a bad year for both raspberries and plums. Tayberries (a cross between raspberries and blackberries) are presently on the go, as are elderberries. In two to three weeks we'll start seeing merrybells and greengages, while gooseberries have also suffered at the hands of the weather but should be ripe by the end of July. Heracleum has just finished, and it's worth avoiding parsnips, artichokes and pomegranates at present as all are between season.
Source: Fresh Direct - 01869 365600 - www.freshdirect.co.uk
While the weather has affected both fish and fresh produce over the last few weeks, the meat market has remained fairly untouched. One point worth noting is the cheapness of lamb this year. Supermarkets have been sourcing increasing amounts of lamb from New Zealand, despite their constant boasts of using local suppliers, meaning that farmers have been making £10 less per lamb compared with this time last year.
Casserole meats such as beef forequarter and offal are all cheap, particularly oxtail, pig's liver and ox liver.
Source: The Ginger Pig - 020 7935 7788
Lobsters remain an excellent buy and a must for any menu at their current low price. Wild salmon has come down in price and there are plenty of large sea trout.
Sardines, herring and mackerel are all good value, and there's plenty of turbot and brill, but sea bass and Dover sole are best avoided. Mussels, razor clams and almost all shell fish are in abundance, as is crab, and the settled weather means more langoustines and diver-caught scallops. Two good buys this week are line-caught pollack from Cornwall, and megrim sole.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Lobster salad with baby vegetables and a passion fruit dressing
200ml fish stock
4tbs passion fruit purée
4 baby carrots
4 spears English asparagus
4 spears white asparagus
8 spears wild asparagus
100g fresh peas
100g fresh broad beans
1 tomato (concassé)
1 passion fruit
3tbs saffron mayonnaise
1/4 punnet red amaranth cress
4 courgette flowers
3 pickled Cornish new potatoes
2 punnets pea shoots
50ml lemon dressing
To prepare the passion fruit sauce, reduce the fish stock and combine with the passion fruit purée. While still warm, work in the chilled butter to form an emulsion. Steam lobster for five minutes and remove the shell. Blanch the carrots, all asparagus, peas and broad beans in a minimal amount of water. Add the tomatoes and the seeds of half the passion fruit to the passion fruit sauce.
Slice the lobster into four and warm in passion fruit sauce. Dress the plate with the saffron mayonnaise. Place on top the blanched vegetables and the lobster along with the passion fruit sauce.
Dress the cress, courgette flowers, potatoes and pea shoots with lemon dressing and sprinkle on top.
Dean Timpson, head chef, Dean Timpson at the Compleat Angler