Better conditions have bought prices down on cod, haddock and plaice from Iceland and around the UK. There have also been decent landings of Dovers, lemons, hake and skate from the South Coast, while landings have started to improve on grey mullet. Supplies may tighten towards the end of the week if the winds pick up.
There have been poor landings of langoustines, meanwhile, and the prices on both native and Canadian lobster have risen.
Source: M&J Seafood, 01296 333848, www.mjseafoods.com
Turkish morels (right) are just appearing. Morels are never cheap but, at the beginning of the season, this crop is very expensive. Morels need careful handling to protect their flavour, so it's best to clean them with a mushroom brush.
Jerusalem artichokes are fantastic and very good quality now. The first forced Jersey Royals are coming through.
There are also two new cresses on the market from the Netherlands: Szechuan cress and BroccoCress. The latter is highly regarded in Japan and the USA for its health benefits, being high in sulphoraphane glucosinolate, a powerful antioxidant. We expect to see both varieties becoming more popular here in the future.
Blood oranges are very good now, while blush pears such as Rose Marie are replacing the stored variety.
Source: Chef's Connection, 020 7627 4809, www.chefs-connection.com
The British public seem to be far more stoical than people on the Continent. In Lyon, public parks have been closed for fear of bird flu, but here there continues to be little concern in the market.
Good quality old-season lamb is increasingly hard to source, and more expensive. New-season lamb is still some way off.
Beef is a little more expensive. The EU remains unhappy with Brazil's cattle traceability in the light of foot-and-mouth scares, and is sending another vet mission in May. Unless it reports that the situation has improved, there could be an import ban.
Source: Aubrey Allen, 024 7642 2222, www.aubreyallenwholesale.co.uk
Jerusalem artichoke and fresh goats' curd soufflé with thyme and lemon chicory and celery leaves, caramelised hazelnuts
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the artichoke purée
150g Jerusalem artichoke, scrubbed
For the caramelised hazelnuts
100g hazelnuts, skinned
200g olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of curry powder
For the soufflé
Softened butter for the ramekins
60g brioche crumbs
40g hazelnuts, ground, first roasted then skinned
50g plain flour
75g goats' curd
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper
5 egg whites
Fresh thyme leaves
Lemon zest, finely grated
For the artichoke purée, cut the artichokes into similar-sized chunks. Simmer in water and milk until tender. Drain, liquidise and sieve.
For the caramelised hazelnuts, cover the hazelnuts with olive oil, fry gently until golden, drain on kitchen paper. Boil water and sugar to 177°C. Add the hazelnuts and take off the heat. Stir slowly with a spatula until the sugar crystallises and coats the nuts. Put them in a wide pan and caramelise, making sure they don't stick together. Spread them on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Season with salt, pepper and curry powder while still hot.
For the soufflé, butter four ramekins and coat generously with mixed brioche crumbs and ground hazelnuts.
Make a light-coloured roux with the butter and flour. Gradually mix in the milk to make a thick béchamel. Add the curd, purée, lemon zest and thyme leaves. (We use a lemony unpasteurised fromage de chèvre from Innes that works well with the nuttiness of the artichokes.)
Place the mixture into a metal bowl, mix in the egg yolks and season. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, adding a few drops of lemon juice. Carefully fold the egg whites into the soufflé mixture. Fill each ramekin and tap on the work surface to expel any air bubbles. Put in a shallow bain-marie of boiling water. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15-20 minutes.
Cool a little, turn out on to a non-stick baking sheet. Rebake for five to six minutes at 200°C.
We serve this with chicory leaves and picked celery hearts, lightly dressed with a hazelnut dressing. Garnish with caramelised hazelnuts.
Laurie Gear, chef-proprietor, the Artichoke, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Chef Conference 2006
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