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Calves liver, venison, peas, broad beans

26 January 2006

Meat
Calves' liver is very expensive, around £18 or £20 a kg when it usually fetches about £14. Because it's a fresh product (frozen liver is half the price, but only half the product) and there is a limited supply, the slightest fluctuations in supply and demand can cause the price to surge or plummet. In August it usually dips as low as £7 a kg.

There is no news from Brazil as yet about the foot-and-mouth situation, but the EU delegation is there investigating.

Pheasant is now past its best. However, squab pigeons are still wonderful and in plentiful supply, as is venison.

Source: Aubrey Allen 024 7642 2222 www.aubreyallenwholesale.co.uk

Fish
Weather around Iceland, Norway and the Faroes has been very poor, so supplies have been short this week. Harvests of halibut and turbot in Iceland and salmon in Norway have been cancelled, with Norwegian salmon going up 20% in two weeks. Catches of wild cod, haddock and plaice will also be affected.

Weather around the UK should be better, so expect decent landings of native squid, octopus, plaice, Dovers and hook-and-line-caught sea bass, but none in large amounts. Supplies of shellfish such as crabs and langoustines should be better. Exotics and swordfish supplies are also down, although tuna is coming through in normal amounts.

Source: M&J Seafood 01296 333848 www.mjseafoods.com

Fresh produce
The quality of Moroccan fresh peas and broad beans is worth looking at again as the growing season progresses. The broad beans are small and tender with decent colour.

The first Italian Beard of the Monk (pictured right) has just started to arrive again. Appreciated by many Italian chefs, this unusual vegetable is lovely steamed and served with grilled fish. Italian blood oranges and Packham pears are now plentiful, although the pears are arriving overly firm.

French Comice pears are still eating extremely well, but many are now showing scuff marks or tree damage to their thin skins. Spanish strawberries are showing signs of "white shoulder" because they grow in bursts due to the huge differences between the night and daytime temperatures.

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

Seasonal recipe

Fregola con melanzane, gamberi e arance sangue (Fregola with aubergine, tiger prawns and blood oranges)

Ingredients

(Serves four)

For stock
1 carrot
1 celery stick
1 onion
100g peeled tomatoes
50ml olive oil
50ml brandy
50ml Vermentino (dry Sardinian white wine)

For the fregola
200g fregola (Sardinian pasta)
7 blood oranges

For the prawns
8 black tiger prawns (remove heads, but keep for stock)
30ml olive oil
1 red chilli
1 clove garlic
50ml Anghelu Ruju (Sardinian port-like wine)

For the aubergine
1 large round aubergine
40g flour
80ml groundnut oil

To finish and garnish
20ml olive oil
Chilli
1 clove garlic
40g butter
1 blood orange
60g sugar
20g parsley
Salt and pepper

Method
For the prawn stock, dice the celery, carrot and onion and sweat in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the heads of the prawns, and brown. Add the brandy and let it evaporate. Add the peeled tomatoes, white wine and two litres of water. Let it simmer on low heat for an hour. Sieve the stock and season.

To cook the fregola, bring the juice of seven oranges to the boil with two litres of water. Add the fregola, take off the heat and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

For the prawns, split the headless prawns in half, clean and sauté in a pan with the extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli. Flambé with the Anghelu Ruju.

For the aubergine, slice the aubergine thinly, lightly dust with flour. Fry the slices in groundnut oil.

To finish, brown some garlic and chilli in remaining extra virgin olive oil, add the fregola (which has absorbed the juices) and some of the prawn stock. Add a knob of butter and toss together.

To plate, layer the aubergine slices with the fregola to make a tower. Assemble two prawns on top of each tower. Garnish with fresh and caramelised blood orange segments and a sprinkle of parsley (to caramelise, melt sugar and juice in a pan, boil until it caramelises and pour over the orange segments).

Massimo Soddu, head chef, Sardo Canale, London

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