15 March 2007

Fresh produce

Cauliflowers from the UK are good quality and value for money at present, as is fresh wild garlic, which is now in season.

Yellow courgettes remain expensive, while green courgettes stay low in price. Good quality white asparagus is arriving from France and Germany, and morel mushrooms from Turkey. Chanterelle mushrooms have risen in price, while pieds de mouton remain value for money.

Mother's Day might be a good chance to think tropically, with pawpaws arriving from Colombia, and star fruit, coconut, passion fruit, pineapple and kiwi fruit all on the market. Treat those mothers to a fruit salad.

Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600


The fine weather over the weekend has seen good landings from around much of the coast.

There have been excellent landings of black bream from the Channel Islands, and plenty of line-caught pollack, making both good options for Mother's Day. For a treat, there are landings of red bream arriving from Cornwall - rare these days and available at about £14.50/kg. There hasn't been much line-caught bass or John Dory this week, so both are best avoided.

Choppy weather in Scotland has deterred divers. As a result, there are no scallops and few razor clams on the market. Sprats, herrings and almost all shellfish are in excellent supply, and there are an abundance of large crabs. Fresh spider crab meat is also arriving and is a popular option in France.

Now is the time of year for fresh, smoked cod roe. The fish only carry roe for a brief period, so it is often smoked then frozen to keep it on the market for the next six months. But for the next few weeks it will be available fresh at £18.50/kg.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707


We're finally seeing new-season lamb arrive in larger quantities. It is scarce but supplies will slowly increase for the next few weeks as farmers try to drive up the price for Easter, so don't expect it to drop until mid-April.

Venison is winding down now as the weather starts to heat up, but there is plenty of wood pigeon and rabbit available.

Ducks and chickens will be popular for Mother's Day but both are in good supply, so prices won't be overly steep.

There is plenty of good beef on the market and veal calves are also still available.

Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707

Seasonal recipe
Beef fillet with shallots and Guinness

Ingredients (Serves four)

2tbs olive oil
600g beef fillet
12 shallots, peeled
2 red onions, sliced
1tbs tomato purée
3 cloves garlic, peeled
400ml Guinness
3 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper
25g butter
1tbs flour
Mashed potato, to serve
2tbs chopped chives, to garnish


Heat a frying pan until hot. Add 1tbs of oil and heat through. Add in the beef and sear on both sides. Heat the remaining oil in a casserole dish. Add in the shallots, red onion, tomato purée and garlic and fry, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add in the beef fillet, Guinness and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 mins. Remove the beef fillet and set aside to rest. Keep warm. Bring the Guinness mixture to the boil. Meanwhile, rub the butter and flour together until mixed well. Add the butter mixture to the sauce in little pieces at a time, stirring until absorbed, to thicken the sauce. Serve the beef with mashed potato, garnish with chives, and spoon around the liquor.

Jamie Walsh, head chef, the Fisherman's Lodge, Newcastle

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