The first nettles should be coming in from Scotland this week, while the St George's mushroom should also be making an appearance soon. A few South African cèpes are arriving this week but warm winds have caused morels to increase in price. Chanterelles from the USA are good quality, though way above European prices. Traditionally, though, this is a lean time of year for wild mushrooms.
Cherries from Spain are upon us, but having been grown under glass they're expensive. Redcurrants are still expensive and worth avoiding, and in any case there are other soft fruits such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, which have eased in price. Quince is still coming in good supply. Mangoes are difficult, but Thai yellow mango is by far the best option unless you want to splash out on air-freighted Australian fruits. Samphire from Israel is excellent, but onions in general are through the roof. Finally, our suppliers have started bringing in the first medlars from Spain.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
As you might have supposed, spring lamb is now extremely popular. Whole 20kg lambs will be going for about £100, with legs at about £10-£12 per kg. Shoulders are more expensive at the moment, reflecting the price of the lamb. But because shoulders are hard to shift, if you hold out until after Easter you should be able to bid at wholesalers and save a fortune compared with buying the same amount of legs.
Poultry prices have not risen despite a slight increase in demand for chicken. Beef, especially sirloin, has risen in demand because of the good weather, but should stay constant in price for the next few weeks. The first glimpse of summer has seen more demand for lighter meats, such as venison rump, available at £12.50 per kg, and as May and June approach, barbecuing meats will go up in price as roasting joints lower.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
Lemon sole and Dover sole are both good buys for Easter, and there have been good landings of line-caught pollack, hake, monkfish, brill and wild Irish sea trout, as well as black bream from the Channel Islands.
There are plenty of crabs, but they might become scarcer as the weekend comes, so now is a good time to buy. Langoustines are plentiful and there have been the best landings of scallops for six months. Bass is scarce and best avoided unless it's farmed. Farmed turbot from Spain, halibut and daurade royale are good alternatives.
There are excellent supplies of shellfish, and mussels are back on form.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Roast loin of lamb with crispy lamb cutlet and parisien of vegetables
For the parsien
1 small carrot
1/4 red pepper
250ml red wine jus
1tsp extra fine capers
For the lamb
110g lamb loin in a piece
2tbs olive oil
1tsp garlic puree
1 sprig mint
Salt and pepper
1 French-trimmed lamb cutlet
1 cup flour
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
To make the parsien, use a small-calibre vegetable-baller to scoop out the carrot, cucumber and red pepper balls.Blanch,drain and keep hot in the heat of the red wine jus.Add the capers.
Marinate the loin in half the olive oil,garlic and mint for two hours. Season and colour loin in hot pan in half the butter. Finish roasting in a hot oven (200c) for five to seven minutes until pink, and rest five minutes.
Coat the cutlet in flour,egg wash (egg and milk beaten together) and breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown in hot fryer (190c) and drain on paper towel. Season with salt.Wilt the spinach in remaining butter and place in centre of plate.Arrange the loin on top of the spinach with cutlet on the side. Pour over red wine jus with parisien of vegetables and drizzle with olive oil.
Stephen Toman,Chef,James Street South,Belfast