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Tomatoes, Lamb, Pollack

05 July 2007
Tomatoes, Lamb, Pollack

Fresh produce

The weather has not been doing us many favours, but at least the pulses are enjoying the rain if nothing else: there are nice peas, broad beans and French haricot beans available.

There is also an abundance of superb soft fruit from the Continent vine peaches, flat peaches, yellow and white peaches, yellow and white nectarines and blush apricots to name but a few. Sea purslane and marsh samphire are also in their prime, while the end of the month will see the best time for alexanders as their florets appear (imagine miniature broccolis).

Sweet cicely and sweet gale are both available from Scotland, the latter of which is excellent in custards or crème brûlées and is a good substitute for bay leaves.

There are excellent vine tomatoes coming in from Sicily, and gooseberries are improving (but still a tad bitter) while wild strawberries are poor at the moment and elderflowers have just finished.

The weather has hammered the broccoli crop across the Continent, while wet weather here means that the cherries across the channel are far superior to our home-grown crop. Scottish girolles are starting, but it's not going to be a good year for mushrooms.

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

Meat

Wood pigeons and rabbits are scarce. Spring lamb is everywhere and the next few weeks will see the first saltmarsh lamb arriving. English veal is hard to source because of high demand from the Continent. There's plenty of good pork available at reasonable prices, while beef remains steady.

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

Fish

The weather has affected salmon and sea trout, with shortages meaning price rises. Most species are available, but not in large quantities. Squid, hake, monkfish and skate are all available, as are mackerel and French sardines. There's plenty of pollack, while lobster prices are still rock bottom. There are now better numbers of crabs. Shellfish is not a problem, but for some reason there's very little English plaice, so it's best avoided.

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

Seasonal recipeBaked, smoked bacon-wrapped sardines with gooseberry and green peppercorn relish

Ingredients (Serves four starter portions)

1 onion, finely sliced
100ml white wine vinegar
150g caster sugar
1tbs green peppercorns
600g gooseberries, top and tailed
8 sardines (head off, scaled, gutted)
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
Optional: 1tbs chopped herbs

Method

To make the relish, place onion, green peppercorns, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add gooseberries and cook for about half an hour or until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.

Wrap the sardines in rashers of bacon, place on an oiled baking tray, sprinkle with a few chopped herbs, bake in a very hot oven for 10 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

Serve two sardines each with the warm relish.

by James Mackenzie, chef-proprietor, the Pipe & Glass Inn, South Dalton, East Yorkshire

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