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Quinces, celeriac, brill, plaice

18 August 2005

Fresh produce
Fresh Mirabelle plums are at their best right now. These small, dark, yellow fruits are also superb for preserving either as jam or for bottling whole in alcohol-flavoured syrup. Eastern France produces the best fruits, with many of the current crop arriving from the Lorraine.

Fresh quinces are beginning to trickle through from Turkey again, a sure sign of autumn on the way.

Wet walnuts should be appearing any day now, with the first fruits usually from southern France. When shelled and carefully peeled, the crisp white nuts underneath are delicious served with a pinch of salt.

Look out for UK-grown celeriac this month.

The first Brussels sprouts are also appearing from Holland and Belgium, but uptake is usually slow until October.

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

Fish
The Faroese inshore season will soon be coming to an end, so flatfish will start to rise in price. Dovers, lemons, wytch and turbot should rise in price, although brill and plaice look more steady.

Coley is dropping in price, as is native lobster, monkfish and Icelandic red fish. Take care when sourcing haddock as some of the Icelandic and Norwegian fish has very soft flesh.

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

Meat
If you want to buy grouse at the moment it's going to cost you as much as £50 each bird. There is a massive shortage and certainly not enough to put it on your menus. If anyone offers you the more normal price of £15 per bird they either haven't got any or are trying to sell you frozen.

The much better news is that the best quality British beef is not going up in price. Usually at this time in the year there's a slight shortage, but after the last of the foot-and-mouth concerns had reduced supply into last year, this time around seems to be much better.
Source: Aubrey Allen, 024 7642 2222, www.aubreyallen.co.uk

Seasonal recipe

Pan-roasted first of the season young grouse, with apple and celeriac rÁ¶sti, stewed blackcurrant and lemon thyme juices
Ingredients
(Serves 4)

For the grouse 4 dressed young grouse
50g butter
4 rashers streaky bacon
1 bunch lemon thyme
Juniper
20ml oil

For the sauce 100ml veal jus
50ml game stock
1 measure port
1tsp crushed juniper berries
For the rÁ¶stis
50g grated Granny Smith apple
50g grated celeriac
200g grated potato
Salt and pepper

To serve 2tbsp fresh blackcurrants
12 dried apple slices

Method Smear the grouse with butter and season. Place a rasher of bacon around each grouse and secure with string. Place a little thyme and juniper inside each cavity. Sear on each side in a hot frying pan with a little oil. Place in a hot oven and roast for five minutes on each breast. Remove the bacon and return to the oven on their backs and roast for a further five minutes.

Take out of the oven and rest in a warm place until required. Roasting the birds for 15 minutes should leave the meat slightly pink, providing the searing stage has been thorough and the roast grouse are properly rested.

Pour off any excess fat from the roasting pan, then deglaze the pan with the port. Add the game stock, juniper and some thyme stalks and reduce by half. Strain through a fine chinoise into saucepan, add veal jus and heat to required consistency. Reserve.

To make the rÁ¶stis, place the grated potato in a tea towel and squeeze out any water. Mix together the potato, apple and celeriac with a bit of fresh thyme and seasoning. Divide the potato mixture into four hot blini pans with a little oil and butter, press the mixture down and cook until golden brown. Turn the rÁ¶stis over and cook the other side. Season and keep warm.

To serve, heat the rostis in the oven until crisp. Place one in the centre of each plate, remove the breasts and legs from the grouse and place on the rÁ¶sti. Warm the sauce and drop in the blackcurrants and a few picked lemon thyme leaves. Gently heat until the fruit just starts to burst, then spoon round the plate and finish with the crisp bacon and dried apple slices.

James Mackenzie, head chef, the Star Inn, Harome, North Yorkshire

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