Beef prices have levelled off after recent increases, but don't expect them to decrease until after Christmas, especially on steak cuts. With lamb prices high at present it is hard to tell what effect the bluetongue disease is having on the market. Prices have steadied, although imported produce is increasing, with many suppliers have reached their import quota. The high grain prices and a lack of suppliers mean turkey will be very expensive this year.
Meat source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
Root vegetables have started in earnest - Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, burdock roots, crosnes (a chestnut-like root, nice sautéd), root parsley, root chervil. White truffles are now available, but at a high price, although they should come down soon.
Chanterelles are available, but in scarce numbers. Although they respond well to wet conditions, the deluge of this summer has all but obliterated the Scottish crop. There are some arriving from abroad, but expect to pay slightly more. Other fungi around include canary mushrooms, petits gris, Rickstone funnel-caps and wild blewits, the first of the winter mushrooms. Sloes, haws, rosehips, sea purslane, rock samphire and wood sorrel are all available, while from overseas there are nice dates on the branch - red and yellow - and nice champagne grapes from the USA.
Source: Fresh Direct - 01869 365600 - www.freshdirect.co.uk
There is plenty of line-caught wild sea bass, superb-quality dayboat red mullet, and Dover sole, usually pricey but now very reasonable and excellent quality. Dayboat jumbo plaice are very good at present, but turbot is going up in price, as are native lobsters.
Source: Flying Fish - 01726 862876 - www.flyingfishseafoods.co.uk
English partridge, Savoy cabbage and bacon
Ingredients (Serves eight)
8 English partridges
1 bay leaf
16 thin rashers streaky bacon
For the Savoy cabbage and bacon
750g Savoy cabbage
150g bacon, cut into small pieces
120g onion, sliced
150g carrot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, bashed
Cracked black pepper
100g boiled chestnuts
1tsp herb leaves
For the sauce
700g partridge bones
5g juniper berries
4 bay leaves
750ml red wine
750ml amontillado sherry
1 litre chicken stock
1 litre veal stock
Squeeze lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Remove outer dark green leaves from cabbage. Take light green leaves and remove hard core running through each. Shred cabbage evenly.
Slice bacon and cut into small pieces, place in a pan of cold water and bring to boil. Remove from water and let cool.
Sweat onion in butter with no colour. Cook carrots in butter but don't colour. To finish, put butter in cold pan on a low heat. Once it has melted, add bacon and fry with a little colour. Add sweated onion and carrot and cook out for one minute then add cabbage, salt, garlic and pepper. Stir all ingredients together and put a lid on pan. Cook out for five minutes on a low heat, until tender but still vibrant green. Stir cabbage every two minutes. Once cooked, remove garlic, brown some chestnuts in foaming butter and add. Finish cabbage with herbs and seasoning. Serve immediately.
Clean partridges and remove all guts. Stuff with aromatics. Place in a vac-pac bag and seal well. Place in water bath at 55°C for one hour. Remove from bag and brown skin on all sides in foaming butter. Season and serve immediately.
If not using water bath, tie sliced bacon over breasts of the partridge, roast in oven at 200°C for 10 minutes, turning from time to time, then rest for five minutes and serve.
For the sauce, brown off all bones and keep to one side. Evenly brown off all vegetables in butter and keep to one side. Deglaze the same pan with sherry and reduce to a syrup. Add red wine and reduce. Add bones and caramelised vegetables. Add stock and cook out for one hour. Pass through a fine sieve and reduce to correct consistency. Do not over-reduce sauce or it will overpower the partridge. Refresh sauce with lemon juice and chopped herbs.
Dominic Chapman, head chef, the Royal Oak, Maidenhead, Berkshire