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Sardines, courgettes, black figs

03 August 2006
Sardines, courgettes, black figs

Fish
Cornish sardines are being landed daily and are excellent quality. The day boats are also bringing lots of mackerel, red mullet, squid and inshore pollack, and there's some exceptional diver-caught
plaice from Weymouth.

We're also seeing plenty of large, wild, Channel black bream, a firm-fleshed summer species ideal for filleting or chargrilling.

There are good supplies of langoustines and diver-caught scallops from Scotland although, with the warmer water, there has been a bit of an issue with mussels from the lochs. There are still good supplies from other parts of the country, however, including Devon and Cornwall.

There's some quality longline-caught halibut from Iceland, and there are still plenty of wild Scottish salmon and grilse available, but only until 31 August, when the season closes.

As the water temperature drops over the next few weeks, be warned that the supply of lobster will also dip, meaning that prices will probably once again rise.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk

Fresh produce
New-crop English onions are now beginning, which should bring prices down. UK courgettes are excellent quality and good value. Golden beetroot are also appearing, and UK vine tomatoes are now coming through very well, although cherry tomatoes from the Continent are still expensive.

Red and yellow peppers have now dropped in price after being very expensive last week. Many people have switched to using French salads, as the English crop does not seem to be storing too well. French cobnuts are also now beginning.

Black figs from Israel, Turkey and Italy are now very sweet, and are delicious raw or slightly roasted in the oven. French blood peaches are now coming through, although honeydew melons are still short. Charentais melons are wonderful.

Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk

Meat
Beef fillets are still extremely high. They may not be rising but, as commodity prices tend not to shift over the summer, there's no sign of them coming down until September. The price also depends on the political situation on imported meats, and in particular the report of the EU delegation sent to Brazil to investigate foot-and-mouth and the traceability situation.

High beef prices mean high meat prices across the board, with lamb, for instance, around 15% to 20% more expensive than this time last year. The poultry trade has also been affected by the hot weather, with more fatalities suffered as temperatures increase. Again, this will get back to normal only towards September.

The Glorious 12th will soon be upon us and, after all the good weather, reports suggest grouse numbers are good. More detailed price predictions next week.

Source: Nigel Fredericks 020 8905 9005 www.nigelfredericks.co.uk

Salad of Italian black figs, Roquefort, toasted walnuts and walnut dressing

Ingredients
(Serves six)

6 figs
3 bunches wild rocket
160g Roquefort
40g walnuts
1 egg, soft-boiled for four minutes
25ml sherry vinegar
25ml warm milk
50ml walnut oil
25ml extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt
Black pepper

Method
Cut the figs into six wedges, wash the rocket, toast the walnut halves and crush them slightly. Prepare the dressing with still-warm egg, milk, vinegar and seasoning, blending them together with a hand blender and finally emulsifying with the oils. You should have a nice, creamy textured dressing. Serve the room-temperature figs with wild rocket leaves, toasted walnuts and crumbled Roquefort, and drizzle over the dressing for a summer starter.

Helena Puolakka, executive chef, Fifth Floor restaurant, London

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