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Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, mutton

06 October 2005
Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, mutton

Fresh produce
You can tell the autumnal months are upon us as the market's seasonal produce takes on an altogether new feel. Brussels sprouts are with us again, along with fresh Brussels tops - which seem to become more popular each year.

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are also plentiful again, and spaghetti squash are at their best when nice and young.

William pears are lovely now from Italy and Spain. Baby pears are worth buying again now, the best being the Rocha variety.
Wet walnuts are delicious again (before the skins dry too much), while fresh pomegranates are now juicy and sweet, and the first of the smooth orange flesh Cantalina melons are arriving again from Brazil.

Source: Chef's Connection, 020 7627 4809, www.chefs-connection.com

Meat
The game situation is improving, with red-legged partridge, mallard and teal available.

October is also the start of the mutton season. Mutton, according to new standards, is any sheep over two years old.

Beef, lamb and pork are all in good supply, with free-range pork still the best value. There's a lot of imported pork from Eastern Europe, but it's nowhere near as good as our product.

Source: Aubrey Allen, 024 7642 2222, www.aubreyallen.co.uk

Fish
Weather conditions were bad at the start of the week with gale-force winds in Scotland. Landings should now have increased, but certain species from Iceland or scallops from Scotland will be short. Icelandic cod, especially, will be practically non-existent, putting up prices across the board. Haddock (below) will also be expensive thanks to a lack of fish from Denmark.

There will, however, be good landings of native fish like squid, pollack and grey mullet, although most other fish will stay at the same price or creep higher.

Source: M&J Seafood, 01296 58822, www.mjseafoods.com

Seasonal recipe

Poached leg of mutton with a caper cream sauce
Ingredients
(Serves six)
2kg 1/2 leg of mutton (bone in)
4 large Spanish onions, peeled and sliced
2 generous tsp sea salt
4 bay leaves
1tsp whole black peppercorns
1/4 stick cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange
2 litres light chicken stock
1 bottle dry white wine
350g unsalted butter
4tbsp finely chopped shallots
4tbsp capers
1pt double cream

Method Place the mutton into a large saucepan and bury it in the sliced onions. Add the salt. Tie the bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon and orange zest in a piece of muslin and add this to the pan with half of the wine.

Cover with the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Skim off the scum that forms on the surface with a spoon. Simmer gently for about two hours or until tender.

After one hour of cooking the mutton, melt 150g of the butter in a saucepan, add the shallots and capers and cook gently until softened, then turn up the heat to lightly colour the shallots. Add the rest of the wine and cook briskly until the liquid reduces by half.

Draw off about two pints of the poaching liquor from the mutton pan and add it to the capers and shallots. Bring this to the boil and reduce by half. Add the double cream and bring back to the boil. Reduce the mixture further until you achieve a glossy cream gravy. Adjust seasoning and keep warm.

When the mutton is ready, transfer to a serving dish, cover and keep warm. Strain the poaching liquid from the onions but retain. Heat a large frying pan and melt the remaining butter until foaming. Add the drained onions and fry briskly until they turn golden and have begun to caramelise.

Place some of the golden onions on to a plate and slice the mutton finely on top of it. Garnish with a ladling of the caper cream sauce. The retained poaching liquid can be used to make a delicious soup.

Henry Harris, chef-proprietor, Racine

This recipe appears on the new website www.muttonrenaissance.org

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