New-season parsnip and swede are in - the swede are in excellent condition and a cool summer has given them a yellower, more pungent appearance this year. Peaches are past their best now but there are still good Victoria plums and greengages. English sweetcorn is around still and very sweet in flavour while lingonberries - a wild cranberry - are coming down from Scotland. Prices are high on onions and, particularly, shallots but should be coming down over the next few weeks as the new-season crop arrives. Wild mushrooms are dribbling in from Scotland - girolles, pied du mutton, trompette, and more obscurely, meadow wax cap and curry wax cap (which has a strong curry-ish flavour). Figs and anabs (a apple that looks like an olive) are arriving from Lebanon, while Spanish wild strawberries are also available.
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The last week has seen good landings throughout the country. The only exception has been in Orkney, where bad seas have meant no scallops. There has been good line-caught sea bass from South Wales, good skate wings and excellent in-shore netted red mullet from Cornwall. Shellfish is still in abundance but the freshwater crayfish season is coming to an end so grab them now.
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Beef prices have sky-rocketed because of the rise in feed costs after the floods in the UK over the summer and high wheat prices from the USA. Roasting joints such as topsides remain better value than more expensive cuts such as fillet, the price of which has soared to as much as £14 per kg, some chefs have reported. Lamb and pork prices are firm at present, but expect a rise in pork in the coming weeks because of the same feed-related issues. Legs of pork, though, remain a good buy.
The first few English partridge are arriving but won't be around in large numbers until the end of the month. French partridge are cheap and in very good supply while grouse are in their best condition and number for years and well worth having on the menu if they're not already. Finally, with beef prices through the roof, it's worth considering venison as an alternative. It is now in prime condition, with a tasty layer of fat.
Sliced saddle of venison, roasted butternut squash, Jerusalem artichoke purée, wild mushrooms and buttered curly kale
Ingredients (Serves four)
500g venison saddle (trimmed of all sinew and fat), bones reserved for sauce
80g duck fat (plus extra warmed fat from a confit to rest the meat)
1/2 butternut squash, skinned, deseeded and diced
200g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced
50ml double cream
40g garlic butter
200g mixed wild mushrooms
200g kale, blanched and refreshed
150g mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, thyme)
20ml olive oil
Nutmeg, to taste
200ml red wine
Venison bones and any other game trimmings (roasted)
400ml dark chicken stock
Salt, sugar and pepper to season
Season the meat and brown in a hot pan in half the duck fat. Remove and finish cooking in a hot oven for five minutes. Allow it to rest submerged in warmed confit duck fat.
Roast the butternut squash pieces in the remaining duck fat until soft and well coloured.
Just cover the Jerusalem artichokes with seasoned water and boil uncovered until just cooked, drain water and dry briefly on the stove to remove excess water. Add cream, bring to the boil, season and then purée until very smooth. Finally pass and check seasoning.
Using the garlic butter, sauté the wild mushrooms and then add the blanched kale. Allow to warm through and season with ground nutmeg, salt and sugar.
To make the sauce, slowly sweat the mirepoix in olive oil until dry and starting to catch on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle in the honey and allow to caramelise, then deglaze with the red wine and reduce to a syrup. Add the roasted bones, cover with chicken stock and simmer until the bone flavours have been extracted. Pass the jus through muslin and keep warm.
To finish, place blobs of the purée around the plate, scatter the wild mushrooms, kale and squash around the plate. Carve the rested meat into neat slices and arrange them in a fan. Finish the sauce with a splash of Madeira and pour around.
Matthew Tompkinson, head chef, the Goose, Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire