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Sea kale, John Dory and partridges

22 January 2009 by
Sea kale, John Dory and partridges

FRESH

Sea kale has finally arrived, a rare treat in these barren months. Grown in Scotland using techniques similar, but slightly more complicated than, forced rhubarb, it is priced at £8.50 per kg. The purple sprouting broccoli season has also begun in earnest. The iron-packed, dark green leaves and tiny purple florets are delicious, healthy and give a great yield. Just discard the toughest stems; all the rest is edible.

The cold weather has taken it toll on prices, but there is still good quality and value to be found amongst the hardier brassiccas and roots. Celeriac is a good buy and Jerusalem Artichokes are reasonably priced. Red and white cabbages are at their best this time of year and represent superb value, both for reducing the costs of otherwise expensive salads, or for using as a vegetable - spiced red cabbage is a cheap and delicious winter warmer. Curly kale, Brussels and January Kings are all good buys.

Italian Fennel bulbs look and taste good despite the cold weather they've endured. And there are some beautiful (but quite pricy) graffiti aubergines arriving from Holland.

South African Apricots are succulent and delicious and not too dear for January. Peaches and Nectarines aren't quite as good as in previous years, but have improved since before Christmas. Do try unusual Nectacots. As their name suggests, they're a cross between nectarines and apricots: larger than an apricot, with nectarine-smooth, but apricot-golden skin and a taste that has elements of both parents.

Sapphire Plums are arriving rather green, but soon ripen to become dark and succulent, with a red tinge to their flesh. They should only get better for the next few weeks. Make the most of Lychees. They are great right now, but will begin to go downhill soon.

Closer to home, Spanish Oranges are spot-on right now, and there are still some good satsumas, clementines and tight-skinned Israeli clementinas around. Bitter, sour Seville Oranges are wonderful for cooking. The only UK fruits are cox and Bramley apples and Comice and Conference pears. Prices of the latter two are high because of a lack of fruit from elsewhere in Europe.

Sources:

Chef Direct - 01275 474707

4°C- 020 8558 9708

FISH

The past week has brought mixed blessings in terms of fish supplies. Storms have meant there will be a slow start to scallops and langoustine supplies this week, with divers back in the water but hindered by poor visibility. However, the West Country is turning up some great value fish despite the weather. Lemon sole is on the market at £9.50 per kg, large brill from Newlyn at £13.50 and, line caught Pollack from Brixham. The bargain of the week, however, comes from Scotland, and is 500g-1kg John Dory at £8.50 per kg.. Large mackerel, not line caught, are also around from Scotland at £5.50 per kg. Good squid are still coming in from the south west and shellfish are in good supply, not including razor clams, which are dependent on Scotland. The markets should be fine, weather permitting, for the next few weeks but February, traditionally a hiatus between seasons, will see less variety on the markets, so start planning now.

Chef Direct - 01275 474707

MEAT

Game season is still in full swing. There is plenty of everything, bar pigeon and rabbit due to the wet weather, with woodcock, pheasant, English and French partridge and hare all in plentiful supply. Mutton is excellent at present, and good value, whilst our supplier will have some of the country's first spring lamb arriving in the next week or two. Suckling pig is also worth strong consideration.

Chef Direct - 01275 474707

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