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Strawberries, Pork, Mussels

21 June 2007
Strawberries, Pork, Mussels

Fresh produce

There's a plentiful supply of young, fresh broad beans on the market, both British and French (English are about £3.50 per kg) The French are slightly the sweeter. Peas in the pod are around in good supply, too. Other British vegetables around include Heritage tomatoes, spring cabbages and cauliflowers.

On the fruit front, strawberries from all over the UK are plentiful, though a bit watery, but all the soft fruit, like raspberries, are good. Peaches, flat peaches and nectarines are coming in from Chile and the Mediterranean, although it's early days for the Med ones. There are black figs from Spain and some green figs from Brazil. Wild samphire from Norfolk is still good, although English samphire generally is getting a bit woody now. There's some fleshier samphire coming in from Israel.

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

Fish

The unsettled weather has made landings unpredictable, but there are still good supplies of wild sea salmon (you should be paying less than £20 a kg) and sea trout (about £15 per kg for a large fish). There are also reasonable landings of plaice (£6.50-£7.50 a kg, depending on ports). Pollack and gurnard are still around, and mackerel is a great-value fish in plentiful supply along the west coast, as is cuttlefish, again a good, cheap alternative to squid. Supplies of grey mullet and crab are steady, and now's the time to use native lobster, as it's unlikely to fall much below £15 per kg. Mussels are at their prime, but stay away from large sea bass, red mullet and Dover sole if you need to watch your menu pricing.

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

Meat

People want to eat steak in the summer, which means that retail prices for prime steak cuts are high - so it's a good time for restaurants to buy up braising and roasting cuts and joints. Really good, well-hung topside or silverside, for example, can be sourced at about £7 a kg at the moment.

Lamb is still a good buy. The spring lamb season never really took off, because the drive to use hogget or mutton is having an effect. The offal market tends to be centred on calves and pigs, so lamb offal is a fantastic buy - lamb's liver is about £4 per kg. Pork loins are also a clever investment, as are pork shoulders (about £4.50 per kg), which go well with new-season veg such as potatoes and broad beans.

Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788

Seasonal recipePlaice with spring vegetables and a butter fondue

Ingredients (Serves four)

750g plaice fillets
30ml olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
400g fresh peas in pods
400g broad beans in pods
1 cucumber
4 radishes
400g marsh samphire
200g butter
1tbs lemon juice
1tbs fresh fennel, chopped
1tbs fresh parsley, chopped
1tbs fresh chives, chopped

Note: The beauty of samphire is that it really lifts other flavours with its bold, salty, iodine twang.

Method

Leave the skin on the plaice to help keep the fish together. Pan-fry each fillet, fillet side down, in a little olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Make sure you get the oil smoking hot to prevent fish from boiling in the pan. Blanch the peas in the pod in very salty water and refresh. Pod, then blanch, broad beans. Refresh and skin. Peel the cucumber, remove seeds, and slice thickly. Slice the radishes fairly thick. Blanch samphire in fresh water. Refresh. Whisk cold butter into seasoned water and lemon juice to make a light butter sauce (make this butter fondue to order). Quickly pass the peas, beans, cucumber and samphire through rapidly boiling water. Drain and put into the butter sauce, then add herbs and radish. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve immediately before the vegetables discolour.

Peter Weeden, head chef, Paternoster Chophouse, London

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