Chicken prices are high at the moment because of the high cost of grain and aren't likely to drop in the near future. Beef is stable at a high price because of demand for the little meat available. The South-east is a trouble spot, with no livestock allowed in or out, and is not helping the market to normalise. Lamb, however, is still exceptionally cheap, but with the export market opening again this week and likely to lift prices, now is the time to make the most of it. Shoulders are especially good deals.
On the game front, there's still lots of grouse around and English partridge is now arriving in good numbers. There's lots of good French partridge and brown hares. Teal and wigeon are in steady supply, as is mallard, although the number of birds on the market has declined over recent years because of the cost on the required non-lead ammunition used for shooting. Pheasants are appearing but are not at their best until the end of the month.
Very nice Jerusalem artichokes (pictured) are now arriving in good supply from France, and the British crop shouldn't be far behind. Baby pumpkins, baby carrots (white and purple) and Muscat Hamburg grapes are also coming in from over the Channel. Primo cabbage, bobby beans and kohlrabi are all good buys from our own shores. Autumn black truffles are in good condition at the moment and in a few weeks the first alba truffles will be arriving.
Source: Fresh Direct - 01869 365600 - www.freshdirect.co.uk
There's plenty of good fish available at the moment. Line-caught mackerel from Cornwall, the underrated red gurnard, John Dory (large and small), hake, skate, dabs and sole are all in excellent supply. Sand eels are still available and there will be no problem with shellfish supplies through to March now.
Lobsters are in full condition but prices have risen. Freshwater crayfish will be available for only another fortnight as they start to berry. Silver eels are arriving from Norfolk and now is an excellent time of year for them.
Source: Chef Direct - 01275 474707 - www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Minestra di tartufi
Ingredients (Serves four)
2tbs "minestra Matignon" - equal parts carrot, onion, celery and mushroom, diced and stewed in butter
60g fresh black truffles
30g foie gras
120g puff pastry
250ml strong chicken consommé
This is a variation of Paul Bocuse's dish that he served to President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in 1975 at the banquet where Bocuse was decorated with the Legion d'Honneur for his services to French gastronomy. (Marco Pierre White also named it as one of his top 10 dishes in the 6 September issue of Caterer.) It has been changed slightly to include truffle shavings between layers of puff pastry.
Place the Matignon, 50g of truffle, sliced wafer-thin, the foie gras and the chicken consommé in individual soufflé dishes. Shave the remaining truffle between two thin sheets of puff pastry. Brush with egg yolk.
Make sure the pastry completely seals the dish. Bake at 220°C. Cooking must be rapid: the pastry will rise and become golden brown. Eat the soup by breaking the crust, which will crumble into the soup.
Andy Needham, head chef, Zafferano, London