Freshly picked English apples- Russets, Cox's and Bramleys - will still be around for a few weeks, as will English Conference pears, while French and Dutch comice pears will be arriving soon.
English sweet corn is still just about around, while Brussels sprouts are now in good shape, although they need a touch of cold to tighten them up. Brussels tops, however, are best avoided until November.
There are good plums around as well as English wild strawberries and English tomatoes. The Israeli crop is now starting with excellent honeydew melons and mangoes. Spanish red seedless grapes are also arriving and will be around until Christmas. Autumn black truffles are still available, and the end of October will herald the arrival of the Italian white alba truffle. Finally, there are some very good cocoa beans arriving from France.
Source: Fresh Direct - 01869 365600 - www.freshdirect.co.uk
The red mullet season is now under way, with excellent quality netted fish coming in from Cornwall. It's not cheap but it's certainly worth the extra money. Another good fish at present is Icelandic and Norwegian haddock and cod - sustainably caught and good quality.
There are plenty of squid, langoustines and scallops. Large plaice are good quality and monkfish and brill are very reasonable. There will also be lots of sea bass around from now until the new year. For something different, we now have plenty of fishermen in the Bay of Biscay catching albacore tuna. Sustainable and in excellent condition, it's relatively cheap at about £6.50 per kg for a 5-7kg fish and would be an interesting alternative.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Despite the worries over bluetongue disease, the market hasn't been affected too badly. Demand is still strong on everything, but beef and pork prices are staying firm and lamb prices have fallen. However, chicken prices are going up, mainly as a result of the shortage of grain.
Venison remains uncertain at present. No sooner had the Government declared a three-week ban on shooting than it was lifted, but it remains to be seen what will happen. It's hard to guess, but the suspicion is that if the foot-and-mouth and bluetongue outbreaks continue for much longer it will become increasingly hard to source. It's certainly worth considering whether you need it on a Christmas menu.
Birds, though, are all unaffected - red partridge, mallard, teal and widgeon. Wild English partridge won't be in abundance for two to three weeks. There will be farmed birds on the market next week, but at the same price as grouse, so it would be better hanging on to your money.
Meat source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
Game source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Smoked haddock and sweet corn chowder
2 large waxy potatoes, peeled
3 heads of sweet corn
1 large side undyed smoked haddock
1 handful rough-chopped parsley
Double cream, to taste
Dice potatoes into 1cm cubes and blanch until just done. Blanch sweet corn and take off cob. Trim and wash leeks and cut into rings on the angle, 1cm thick.
Poach the haddock in the milk, bay leaves and thyme so it's just covered. Skin, debone and flake. Strain the broth.
Melt the butter and sauté the leeks so they're soft but with no colour. Add the potatoes and sweet corn and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the flour and cook out like a roux. Add broth slowly and mix to make a soup consistency. You may not need it all.
Add flakes of haddock, parsley and double cream to taste.
Liz Payne, head chef, Bordeaux Quay, Bristol
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