Fresh produce Cranberries from the USA are about to come into season again. Ocean Spray, the largest exporter, normally has a useful cranberry sauce recipe on its packaging. English rowan berries are ripening now, along with fresh sloes. Sloes, however, benefit from colder weather and are best left unpicked until fully ripened.
Comice pears are improving, and quinces are also now arriving with a better degree of ripeness. Look out for home-grown curly kale, which will start arriving in better quantities soon, along with some lovely Savoy cabbage, followed later by the Tundra variety. British apple favourites not to be overlooked this month are still the Egremont Russet and Spartan varieties.
Source: Chef's Connection, 020 7627 4809, www.chefs-connection.com
Better weather along the South Coast means that the netters have been out and supplies should improve on brill, mackerel, plaice, sardines and hake. Monkfish, however, will stay expensive, as the French supermarkets are running promotions at the moment, putting pressure on supply. Skate remains very expensive due to low landings.
Native crab is very good at the moment, with plenty of meat in the shell. Scallop landings should also be improving along the South Coast.
Supplies of farmed turbot from Iceland have also brought prices down. Faroe haddock is still on the high side, and cod will remain expensive until more supply arrives from Iceland.
Source: M&J Seafood, 01296 588221, www.mjseafoods.com
Because the start to the British lamb season was so late it means it is lasting much longer than usual. The animals developed more slowly than usual due to the cold weather, in some cases losing weight before they started to gain it. Slow growth can, though, improve the flavour of the meat, and quality is now superb.
There are a few mallards around and reports suggest that it will be a good year for teals and mallards. The grey partridge situation is also improving, and there are still plenty of red-legged available from France.
Source: Aubrey Allen, 024 7642 2222, www.aubreyallen.co.uk
Jerusalem artichoke soup with a hazelnut milk froth and a cigarette of wild duck and sloes
Ingredients (Serves six as a starter)
For the duck 2 wild duck legs, lightly sprinkled with rock salt and left in fridge for 12 hours with…
2 bay leaves
2 juniper berries, and
4 sprigs of thyme
300ml sloe gin
100g sloe berries
For the soup 500g Jerusalem artichokes
3 medium shallots, sliced
150ml dry white wine
1 litre light chicken stock
For the milk
500ml whole milk
250g hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
200ml double cream
For the "cigarette" Freshly grated nutmeg
6 large sheets of filo pastry
Method Rinse salt off the duck legs and then pat dry. Place in a deep pan and add enough duck fat to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer and confit until very soft.
Place the gin and sloes into a pan and bring to the simmer. Reduce until sticky and the sloes very soft.
Peel the artichokes. Cut the artichokes into small chunks and immediately place in water with a little lemon juice. Sauté the shallots in a little oil until soft. Add the artichoke and sauté for a further five minutes. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until artichokes are soft.
Bring the milk to the simmer and then take off the heat, add the toasted hazelnuts and leave to infuse until milk has taken on the hazelnut flavour.
To finish the soup, blitz the artichokes and pass through a fine sieve into a pan. Add the cream and bring back to the simmer. Season well, adding a little lemon to finish.
Flake the duck legs, and in a bowl mix the duck with the sloe gin and berries. Season well, adding a little nutmeg. Make up six "cigarettes" using the filo pastry and seal the edges with a little beaten egg.
Strain the hazelnut milk and season. Add a little sugar to taste. Fry the cigarettes until golden and crispy. To serve, three-quarters fill six martini glasses with the artichoke soup, froth the hazelnut milk and fill to the top of each glass. Sit one cigarette on top of each glass.
Robert Thompson, head chef, Winteringham Fields, Lincolnshire