Butternut squash; elderberries; crabs; calves' liver

21 July 2005
Butternut squash; elderberries; crabs; calves' liver


Weather conditions are still excellent, but landings are down. All species will be landed along the South Coast, but in small quanities. The only exception is smaller lemon soles (about 280-450g) from the Faroes and the South Coast. There should be reasonable landings of coley, crabs, wytch sole and, soon, sardines.

Supplies of cod, haddock and plaice from Denmark are down, pushing prices up. Because of holidays in Norway, except famred salmon to rise in price - by as much as 20%, according to some supplies.

Source: M&J Seafood, 01296 588221, www.mjseafoods.com

Fresh produce

British-grown specialist salad leaves now include tatsoi, aramenth, garnet aramenth, gold purslane, landcress, orache and golden streak mustard. Many European salad crops, however, are currently suffering from exceptional heat and the lack of rainfall. Crops from France, which is experiencing the driest summer since 1976, are the worst affected.

Decent spinach has been particularly difficult to source. English spinach makes a good alternative, but is generally softer and has a smaller leaf.

Fresh UK elderberries are ripening again now. They can be used to make delicious summer cordial, jam or sorbet.

The European grapes season is beginning again and the quality and prices should improve rapidly over the coming weeks.

Black figs are now plentiful and the sweetness and flesh colour are better.

Butternut squash are arriving in superb condition and the flesh is super-sweet - it's delicious roasted in chunks with fresh thyme and rock salt.

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


Calves' liver now costs about half of what it does at its peak. During the summer there's big demand for veal but not liver, so as it can't be frozen, the price drops massively. This will last only a few weeks, so even if liver isn't traditionally seen as a summer ingredient it's worth considering as an alternative dish.

Lamb is still plentiful, but is about 10% more expensive than last year. Again there are bargains to be had on some of the lesser -used cuts. Breast of lamb costs about 70-80p per portion and was made famous in Escoffier's lamb epigram (trim, confit then pane the lamb breast).

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

Seasonal Recipe

Confit of calves' liver with beetroot and horseradish relish, sauté of cèpes
(Serves 6)
1kg calves' liver, peeled and deveined
100g sea salt
For the relish (makes more than six portions)
300g grated beetroot
300g grated horseradish
350ml white wine vinegar
200ml double cream, boiled then chilled
170g caster sugar
For the confit
Goose fat, at 68°C (enough to cover liver)
Sprig of rosemary
Sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
6 peppercorns
2 juniper berries
4 split cloves of garlic
600g fresh cèpes, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

To serve Pea shoots tat soi; red chard
Crisp-fried Serrano ham
Parmesan shavings
Veal stock, very reduced

Method First, slice the prepared liver into two long rectangles, rub the sea salt over it and leave covered in the fridge for eight hours.

For the relish, place the beetroot, horseradish and vinegar in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, add sugar and cook slowly until all the vinegar has evaporated. Cool the beetroot mix, add the cream, season and set aside.

Wash off the calves' liver and pat dry, place in the confit fat for 30-40 minutes with the rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, juniper berries, peppercorns and garlic. Take out the liver and drain off the fat, sear rapidly in a hot pan and baste with butter. Slice it, and check seasoning. Sauté the cèpes in butter and season well.

To serve, arrange the liver with the cèpes, quenelles of the beetroot relish and a mixture of salad leaves (pea shoots, tat soi and red chard). As an extra garnish, add Serrano ham and shavings of Parmesan. Finish with a very reduced veal stock.

Robert Thompson, head chef, Winteringham Fields, Lincolnshire

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