Cod, watercress, spinach

Friday 3rd February 2006 00:00

Fish
There should be an improvement in Iceland's weather this week, which will help supplies of cod and haddock. With the Irish cod season also approaching, prices should fall. UK conditions have also improved, so expect better supplies of coley, dogfish, Dovers, hake, skate and turbot from the South Coast.

There should also be better supplies of monkfish and John Dory, but not enough to bring prices down.

Farmed salmon prices will also fall. The Norwegians haven't been able to get the prices they were demanding last week, and with improved weather more farms will be able to harvest.

Source: M&J Seafood 01296 333848 www.mjseafoods.com

Fresh produce
Unseasonal weather across Europe has caused much disruption in the fresh produce industry. Salad has been particularly affected and prices remain high for only average-quality crops. Whole-leaf head size has been poor overall as the slow-growing crops are picked immature to appease demand.

Watercress and spinach supply can only improve. Historically, prices for basic crops such as aubergines, peppers, iceberg, courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes are up at this time of year as overall demand can outstrip supply. Production costs are also generally higher at this time of year, and the climate dictates the speed of many products' growth.

Valentine's Day is just over a week away and brings forth what is arguably the busiest night of the restaurant calendar. Luxury ingredients featuring on many menus at this time include asparagus, artichokes, sea kale, wild mushrooms and Tardivo.

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

Meat
If the cold weather continues it's a good idea to exploit the value of cheaper meat cuts for braising and stews. People lean towards these types of dishes in winter.

Meanwhile veal is still expensive, while the game season has now come to its end.

Source: Aubrey Allen 024 7642 2222 www.aubreyallenwholesale.co.uk

Seasonal recipe
Poached rhubarb with mascarpone and yogurt cream and polenta crumble biscuit

Ingredients
(Serves about 16-18 for the cream)

For the mascarpone and yogurt cream
600g yogurt
580g mascarpone
6 leaves gelatine, soaked in water
270ml double cream
2tbs sugar
2tbs lemon juice
4tsp brandy

For the poached rhubarb
1kg forced rhubarb
1 litre water
1kg caster sugar
Peel and juice of 3 lemons
2 vanilla pods, split and scraped
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 star anise

For the polenta crumble biscuit
500g soft flour
300g polenta
200g caster sugar
200g Demerara sugar
200g ground almonds
200g medium oats
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
640g soft butter
4 egg yolks

Method
For the cream, beat the mascarpone until smooth. Dissolve the gelatine in 3tbs of hot cream. Dissolve the sugar in the rest of the cream and mix. Mix the cream and gelatine together. Add the yogurt to the mascarpone and then add to the cream mix. Add the lemon juice and brandy. Pour into moulds and set.

For the poached rhubarb, bring the water, sugar, lemon, vanilla, cinnamon and star anise to the boil in a roasting tin on the stove. Cut the rhubarb into 5cm sticks. Place the rhubarb in the syrup and cook until just tender. Remove the rhubarb and leave to cool. Allow the liquor to cool, then replace the rhubarb in the liquor to store.

For the crumble biscuit, mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter. When the mix is just coming together, add the yolks. Roll the mix out to about 1cm thick and bake at 140°C for 20 minutes. Turn the oven up to 160°C and bake until golden brown. Cool completely, then warm up again to cut into shapes. To plate, arrange the set cream next to a pile of the rhubarb and some biscuits.

Tom Kerridge, chef-proprietor, Hand and Flowers, Marlow


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