Fresh peas, cod and lamb

24 March 2005
Fresh peas, cod and lamb

Fresh produce

Round courgettes are back on the market in both yellow and green varieties, although they're small at present. Globe artichoke quality is also improving again now, but prices remain high. Fresh morels, mainly from Turkey, are more plentiful and the price, although still high, has fallen slightly.

The first outdoor-grown English rhubarb is hitting the market again. This is totally different from the forced type, and is the quintessential crumble ingredient.

Chef's Connection
020 8652 2084

Fish Poor weather conditions in Iceland and the Faroes have pushed up the price of white fish. Add to this the demand for fish over Easter and it all adds up to fish everywhere being expensive. Cod will be scarce, while haddock, wild halibut and plaice will shoot up in price. Huge demand from the Continent will see monkfish rise in price, while farmed sea bass and bream from Greece and Turkey is in short supply. Further afield, expect good supplies of snappers of all colours from Australia, tuna, marlin and wahoo, a tropical fish related to tuna.

Source: M&J Seafood
01296 588221

Meat The lamb situation is still the main story. The good news is that the lovely weather over the last week or so should help the progress of lambs. The bad news is that it's going to be a late year and we're still two or three weeks away from good new season lamb. Watch this space.

The outstanding buy at the moment is undoubtedly pork, both free range and the regular variety. Escalopes from the leg, and legs themselves for roasting, are really outstanding value.

Poultry of all sorts is available, and good value at the moment, with some wonderful specialities coming in from France.

Source: Aubrey Allen
024 7642 2222

- . . . and how to use them

Dhun daar nay vaghaar

This week's spring equinox (21 March) is the start of the new year for Parsees, the Indian community which originated from ancient Iran and Persia. The day's festival - called Navroze - involves plenty of food, including dishes such as this dhun daar nay vaghaar (rice, plain dal, garnished with onions fried crisp in pure ghee) which is commonly served with a thick sweet and sour curry.

(Serves four)
200g toover dal (also known as toor dal, or yellow lentils)
1tsp turmeric
2tbs butter
100g basmati rice (per person)
2 bay leaves
2 green cardamom, cracked at tip
6-7tbs sunflower oil
1tsp cumin seeds
6-8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 green chilli, slit into four (optional)
2 medium onions
Coriander leaves

Method Wash the dal thoroughly and soak in cold water an inch above the level of the lentils for at least two to three hours, even overnight. In summer, change the water at least once if soaking overnight - warmer water toughens the lentils and makes them take longer to cook.

Put them in a fresh pan of water, add turmeric, bring to the boil and then simmer. Remove any scum from the top, add salt and continue cooking until the dal is thoroughly cooked. Add one tablespoon of the butter and then purée the lentils thoroughly into a smooth paste. Keep the consistency to that of a thick pouring sauce by adding a little of the cooking liquid if necessary.

Boil enough water for the rice, adding the bay leaves and cardamom. Add washed rice, stir, boil for eight to 10 minutes until rice is cooked but firm. Drain and set aside in a covered dish.

For the vaghaar (sizzling or tempering) stage, take one tablespoon of butter and one of oil and heat slowly. Add the cumin and, half a minute later, the chopped garlic. Continue stirring and cooking gently until the garlic is golden brown in colour. Add the entire mixture to the puréed dal. If you wish to add green chilli, add it after the garlic is a medium gold colour and then cook until garlic is golden brown.

Fry onions in remaining oil until they go light brown. Stir continuously, breaking up any lumps the onions form, but keeping all the onions below the oil. As soon as the onions go a darker shade of brown, drain them into the strainer and loosen them with the fork. If you don't do this, the onions will continue cooking in the strainer and turn black. Later, turn them over on to to a paper towel to remove excess oil.

Before serving, heat the rice. Reheat the dal very gently over a low heat, stirring regularly and scraping the bottom. Mix in chopped coriander and sprinkle the fried onions over the top as garnish when serving. This can be served with a few fried poppadoms.
Recipe from Cyrus Todiwala, chef-proprietor, Café Spice Namasté

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