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Cherry Tomatoes, Beef, Cod

13 March 2008 by

Fresh

It might still be cold and wet but spring is slowly edging nearer.

Wild garlic, with its glossy, lily-shaped leaves, is sweet, hot and mouth-aromatic is as much a harbinger of spring as daffodils and started to poke its heads above the soil about two weeks ago, so should be on the market any time.

Similarly, nettles are just about to start and will be good for the next few months, after which chemical changes make them coarse and bitter.

English spinach is still a month away, but in Spain and Italy the crop is coming into its prime. The leaves are robust in texture and taste, because they haven't grown too fast, yet they are still very succulent.

In salads, deliciously bitter radicchio is on top form and frisee is getting more plentiful. Cos lettuces and Little Gems are obviously enjoying the spring sunshine in Italy and Spain - they look decidedly chipper.

Loose cherry plum and loose cherry tomatoes represent top value, and larger plum tomatoes are good, too.

Laeticia plums have light maroon skins and sweet, mild, amber flesh. In the absence of the usual easy-peelers, go for sharpish but succulent minneolas.

New-season wet garlic is due in this week from Egypt. It often arrives in February, but is running a little late this year.

Source: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com

Fish

The bad weather at the start of the week will have a knock-on effect come Friday and the weekend, so it's hard to speculate about what will be on the market as we go to press.

It's as good a time as any to use Icelandic and Norwegian fish - cod, haddock and halibut - with plenty of cod cheeks and the seasonal smoked cod roe both available.

Crabs and lobsters are available, and there are plenty of shellfish.

Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707

Meat

Beef prices continue to rise due to a shortage of cattle. The Brazilian beef situation goes on, and Argentina has compounded matters by temporarily banning exports to stabilise prices internally. The Irish have started buying cattle from England and Wales to sell to Germany, profiting from strong prices there and the weak pound.

Poultry prices continue to rise due to increased feed costs and attempts to fill the void left by beef. The glut of spring lamb may be slightly delayed by the recent frosts, but we have found a few suppliers which have sourced the first of the year, priced at about £25 for legs, £15 for shoulders and loins and £16 for best ends.

Source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk

Seasonal recipe

Grilled Barnsley chop with devilled kidneys, nettle and mint sauce

Ingredients
(Serves four)

4 Barnsley chops
A little chopped thyme
Salt and pepper
4 lamb kidneys
Dash of brandy
200ml whipping cream
2tbs strong English mustard
4tbs white breadcrumbs
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp chopped parsley
50g butter
4tbs nettles, blanched and roughly chopped
4tbs mint, roughly chopped
4tbs white wine vinegar
4tbs olive oil

Method

Season the lamb chops with salt, pepper and a little chopped thyme and place on a greased tray under a hot grill for about 10 minutes. Turn after five minutes and rest in a warm place.

For the devilled kidneys, slice the kidneys in half and cut out the fatty sinew. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the kidneys for about two minutes until golden brown and just cooked.

Take the kidneys out of the pan and on to an ovenproof dish. Deglaze the pan with a little brandy, add cream and mustard, reduce to sauce consistency and pour over the kidneys.

Mix the crumbs, butter, parsley and cayenne together in a bowl, sprinkle over the kidneys and grill until crumbs are golden brown.

For the sauce, place the nettles, mint, white wine vinegar and olive oil into a liquidiser and purée. Then check the seasoning.

To serve, place the chop on a plate with two half-kidneys and spoon nettle sauce around. Serve with a caper and shallot salad and buttered new potatoes, or crispy rosemary and garlic-roast potatoes.

James Mackenzie, chef-patron, the Pipe and Glass Inn, South Dalton, East Yorkshire

The Pipe and Glass inn >>

Other recipes by James Mackenzie
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