New red watercress, grown in Hertfordshire, is now on the market. Spanish Bunched Beetroots are super fresh and tender. And most arrivals have leaves that are clean and tender enough to eat as greens of edible quality. Kentish Candy Striped and White Beetroots are worth a try, too. English Red and White Cabbages are sweet, crunchy and represent top value. The glossy outer leaves and tender golden hearts of Portuguese Hispe Cabbages are both tender enough to use raw in salads. Excellent briefly cooked, too. Purple Sprouting Broccoli is now fairly plentiful and it is of exceptional quality this year. There is also increasing amounts of forced rhubarb making its way onto the market.
Egyptian Bobby Beans are local compared to Kenyan Extra Fine Beans. They are also cheaper and tastier, although admittedly they don't look quite as delicate on the plate. Jerusalem Artichoke soup is a wonderful winter warmer. Somerset Swedes are fairly pale this year, but aren't even slightly woody and have a sweet, mild taste. Green-top Turnips are spot-on, too.
In fruit, it's all about citrus at this time of year. Ruby grapefruits from Spain are deliciously sweet with a tonic-water-ish bitter edge. Spanish Navel oranges are now at their very best. They are easy to peel and very soft-fleshed. They are also sweet, juicy and refreshing with quite a pronounced lick of ripe pineapple in their taste. Italian blood oranges practically melt in your mouth, too. And although they are more like sunburst in colour than full-on blood red, they boast a delicious almost spicy berry-edged taste.
Source: 4°C 020 8558 9708
The last few days have seen good landings, with plenty of line-caught Pollack on the market as well as Devon skate and excellent day boat lemon sole. Hake is down to £6.50 per kg for 2-3 kg fish or £5.50 for 1-2kg fish and there is plenty of seabass around, making it a good choice for Valentines Day menus. Cornish sardine fillets, Irish pikes, Irish eels and smoked cod roe are all good, interesting options. February is typically a quiet month, but the Irish wild trout season, starting on 1 March, is one beacon on the horizon.
Source: Chef Direct
In general prices have increased for UK and Irish beef by over 6% from the last month with the numbers slaughtered down by 11.3%. Many of the large slaughter houses are down to only 3 days a week production as there is a shortfall in numbers coming from the farms due to the time of year. The recent poor weather has not helped, with farmers struggling getting their cattle to market. Expect prices to remain firm over the next 2 months. It is worth noting that the supply of OTM beef steak cuts (Over Thirty Months cows) can mask the true price of good clean beef cuts as butchers do not have to state they are using cow beef.
Prices for imported steak cuts have become stronger in price as the severe drought conditions in Uruguay and Argentina limit exports to Europe. At present over 300,000 cattle have died in Argentina along with a further 100,000 in Uruguay. There is a good supply of Australian beef, however we have seen the prices increase due to short availability form South American and African countries.
PORK AND GAMMON
More Pork meat is consumed globally than any other meat, in fact over 100 million tons of pork each year, which equates to an average 15 kg per head per every person in the world. In its relative importance it accounts for half the meat consumed in the EU every year. Production increased through January, with demand levels falling through a quiet market. This has helped stabilize the price through the coming month in light of a weakness in Sterling that has resulted in a growth in export opportunities for pork, bacon and gammon.
The season is at a close with the short supply of Lambs/hogget's still achieving good prices in the export market. Again the bad weather has had an impact on movement from the farms to market, which in turn has pushed prices for lamb carcases up 7.4% on January with a short fall in the UK kill rate of 8.2% to date.
NEW ZEALAND LAMB
Supply of NZ lamb has started to arrive in the UK. There will be a shortfall in production from last year's figures of over 5 million as New Zealand farmers turn to other more profitable farming methods such as wine producing and Dairy supplies. We can no longer look on NZ lamb as a cheap alternative to the home market.
There is a shortage of small birds right across Europe as it has become apparent that the producers have released enough numbers to meet demands after a busy festive period. Prices are still very firm due to the weak pound and short supply of chickens to produce chicken supremes and fillets. Turkey breast rolled is a good alternative for a roasting joint and very competitive in price.
GAME/FRESH FRENCH POULTRY
Fresh Venison and Pigeon are still in plentiful supply and the cold weather lends itself to them appearing on more and more menus. The Euro is keeping prices for all imported Duck, Guinea Fowl etc high. Beware of inferior poultry-producing countries such as Hungary and Estonia who are now exporting into the UK
Veal prices are expensive with demand strong right across Europe. The impact on liver and topside has seen a wholesale increase of over 12% upon last month.
Silverside is a good alternative to Topside. There is an increase in maize fed.
Veal cuts appearing on the market however the colour is much darker than the traditional Dutch Veal Liver we sell.
Source: Birtwistle Butchers
0161 728 3340