Purple sprouting broccoli, Partridge, Plaice

by Tom Vaughan, Thursday 16th October 2008 00:00

Fresh

The English squash season is now well and truly under way. There's a splendid range out there, including Turk's turban, onion, kaboucha, acorn, crown prince and spaghetti. White Swiss chard is in, while the first purple sprouting broccoli of the season seems in excellent shape. It should steadily increase in abundance over the next few weeks but expect it to be considerably dearer than usual, reflecting what has happened to the price of ordinary broccoli. French red-skinned Jerusalem artichokes have a delicious flavour at present while English parsnips are now very reasonably priced and have developed their sweet, winter taste early this year. Both English carrots and Belgian donkey carrots are pretty good buys now. Other recommended roots include English turnips, French celeriac and splendid swedes which are coming from both Somerset and Scotland. New-in apple varieties include Falstaff, Adam's pearmain, Kidd's orange reds, spartan and Reinette Grise Du Canada. English Conference pears are excellent, while Bramley apples are on top form.

Sources: 4°C - 020 8558 9708 - www.4degreesc.com

Fish

Settled weather has seen plenty of good landings. There's excellent line-caught bass coming in from Brixham and good, large plaice around. The cuttlefish season is well under way now, so take the opportunity to get it on your menu. Squid remains in good numbers and the season should last until Christmas. The red mullet season is now also under way, while there are plenty of sardines and sprats from Cornwall. John Dory are in good number as are large plaice from north Devon. Crab and lobster are in good condition and prices have remained steady. Best buys this week are large brill at £10.90 per kg and large Dover sole at £16.50 per kg.

Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707

Meat

Venison is at its best at present, as the deer feed up for the long winter months. Mallard, teal and widgeon are around but not in great quantity. English partridge is starting to appear more and more now and although pheasants are around, they won't be in good condition for a week or two.

Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707


Seasonal recipe

Venison with beetroot gratin and beetroot purée

Ingredients
(Serves four)

For the gratin

500ml double cream
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
6g fresh thyme
3 medium beetroots
2 large white potatoes

For the purée

500g beetroot
300ml apple juice
50ml white wine vinegar
200ml port
500ml beetroot juice or orange juice
300ml apple juice
600-800g venison fillet

For the green crumb (optional)

1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
Small bunch of picked parsley
Half a loaf of sliced white bread, crusts cut off
Sprig of rosemary, chopped

Method

For the gratin, place the cream, garlic and thyme in a pan. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes, then pass through a sieve. Peel the beetroot and potato and slice on a mandolin about 1mm or 2mm thick. In an earthenware dish or flat tray (about 2.5cm deep), layer the vegetables in alternate layers, topping each layer with a little cream, salt and pepper. Once built up, the gratin should be 1.5cm deep. Place in a preheated oven at 170°C and cook for about 45 minutes - check to see if it's done by plunging a knife into the gratin - it should go through without resistance. Remove from the oven and cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Lay another tray on top to compact the gratin, cool and chill. When chilled, you can cut it into square with a knife, or into discs with a biscuit cutter.

For the purée, bake the beetroots in tin foil at 170°C for about 45 minutes, remove from the foil, peel and chop finely. Put all the purée ingredients in a pan and cook over a medium heat, with a lid on, until the liquid starts to reduce (about 45 minutes). There should be enough remaining liquid to make a purée easy to form. If it's too dry it will be hard to purée. Purée, then pass through a sieve. Put a little oil in a hot pan and sear the venison on all sides, season with salt and pepper then place on a wire rack in an oven, set to 170°C. It will take about 7-8 minutes until medium-rare (well-done will take about 15 minutes). Leave to rest for a couple of minutes. The square or discs of gratin should go into the oven to reheat about five minutes before you cook the venison. Slice the venison into 1/2cm thick slices. Place a circle of purée in the centre of each of four plates, put the gratin in the middle, and the venison slices on top.

For the green crumb, put the ingredients in a blender and grind to a fine crumb. Once the venison is cooked, roll it in the beetroot purée, then in the green crumbs, before slicing as before.

Gearoid Davaney, head sommelier at Tom Aikens, suggests the Penfold's Saint Henri Shiraz 1995, a soft, spicy wine with dark fruit flavours, now mature.

Tom Aikens, chef-patron, Tom Aikens, London


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