The lack of decent rainfall has meant St George's mushrooms are expensive this year, as are mousserons. Heracleum starts this week, as does sweet cicely, hop shoots and wood sorrel. Hedge garlic (above) is good at present but has a very short shelf life and should be cooked within hours of picking. Wild asparagus is starting to arrive in plentiful supplies from France. Haw leaves, traditionally not available until 1 May, have been around for a few weeks now and are a nice option in salads.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
As we go into summer many restaurants turn to fish more than meat for menu options, so now is a good time to take advantage of the cheap cuts of meat. Demand at present is for beef steaks and, as a consequence, rib-eye steaks have shot up in price, as much as 20% over the past fortnight, and expect a further 10% rise in the coming weeks. With some restaurants putting orders in for as many as 80 rib-eye steaks a week, butchers are left needing to offload the rest of the carcass. As a result, topside, braising meat and shins are all good value. There is a big demand for veal calf liver, but as it's on the market at £25 per kg a better option would be spring lamb's liver, available at a considerably cheaper £4 per kg.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
Settled weather has seen good landings of langoustines and scallops from Scotland and all-day boats in the West Country. Gulls' eggs will be readily available again by the weekend and there is plenty of line-caught bass and turbot. The sustainable Cornish line-caught mackerel season has started and yields superb-quality fish (below).
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Seasonal recipes:Artichoke heart filled with smoked salmon and soft-poached gulls' eggs
Ingredients (Serves four)
4 globe artichokes, preferably Breton
Juice of 1/2 lemon
6tbs white wine vinegar
8 gulls' eggs
4 medium slices smoked salmon
1tbs tomato ketchup
Salt and pepper
4tbs caviar (optional)
Snap off stems and trim leaves of artichokes until only neatly shaped hearts are left. Squeeze over some lemon juice and cook in boiling, salted water with half the white wine vinegar for 15 minutes or until tender. Leave to cool in the cooking liquid. Bring a shallow pan of water to the boil with the remaining white wine vinegar and poach the eggs. Lift out with a slotted spoon and place in very cold water. Trim the ragged edges from the white and place the eggs on a tea towel. Use a plain 8cm cutter to cut a neat circle from each slice of smoked salmon.
Dice the trimmings and keep in a bowl. For the garnish, stir together the ketchup, mayonnaise and Cognac and season to taste. Add the diced smoked salmon. To serve, divide the garnish between the four artichoke heart bottoms, place an egg on each one and top with the circles of smoked salmon. If you are feeling extravagant, caviar marries well with gulls' eggs. A generous spoon of sevruga on top of the egg is sheer bliss.
Michel Roux Jnr, chef-patron, Le Gavroche, London
Soft-boiled gull's egg with creamed leeks, smoked haddock and grain mustard
Ingredients (Serves four)
2 leeks, trimmed, about 120g each
About 150ml double cream
150g smoked haddock, cooked and flaked
1tsp grain mustard
4 gulls' eggs
Finely dice the leeks and just cover with double cream. Season with a pinch of salt and reduce over a high heat until the cream is bound on to the cooked leeks and a risotto consistency is achieved. Throw in a handful of smoked haddock, a teaspoon of grain mustard and finish with chopped parsley and lemon. Divide the leek mix into four small ramekins or similar bowls and serve a gull's egg on top of each one.
Philip Howard, chef-patron, the Square, London