The price of Iceberg and Little Gem lettuce has been rising due to a lack of quality crops as the European season curtails and the British season gets under way again. On the root veg front, Spanish new-season parsnips will now supersede the stored British crops, while Jersey Royals and Cornish new potatoes are always popular this month - perfect with new-season lamb. The Italian pale aubergines are outstanding again now - firm dark fruits with creamy, virtually seedless flesh. Look out, too, for new-crop seedless watermelons from Italy and Spain over the coming weeks. St George's and mousseron mushrooms are still plentiful, at their seasonal best and of lovely quality. And as far as stone fruit goes, good-quality peaches should start arriving this week, although some are still harder than others.
Source: Chef's Connection 020 7627 4809 www.chefs-connection.com
Meat continues to slowly climb higher in price. Beef is in shorter supply and consequently dearer. New-season lamb is wonderful, but again not cheap - about 10% more expensive than at the same time last year. Free-range pork continues to be economical. There hasn't been much reaction on chicken and poultry following the avian flu reports - the British don't seem to be panicking about the situation as much as the rest of Europe.
Source: Aubrey Allen 024 7642 2222 www.aubreyallenwholesale.co.uk
Excellent supplies of headless Canadian halibut are available, although prices have risen slightly after poor weather in the Pacific. On the home front, Scottish mussels are in short supply; however, Dutch ones will be available all week. Salmon prices remain high. There should be no problem for 300-600g sea bass but the larger, 600-800g fish are in short supply. Conditions around the Faroes are great, which means haddock supplies are expected to be good all week. Coley prices are rising, while those for gurnard and snapper remain stable.
Source: M&J Seafood 01296 333848 www.mjseafoods.com
Poached peaches with verbena ice-cream
Ingredients (Serves four)
For the poached peaches 250g sugar
Juice of two lemons
2 white peaches
25ml peach liqueur
Zest of one lemon
For the verbena ice-cream: 50ml double cream
Zest of one lime
Zest of one lemon
2g lemon verbena
60g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
Method To prepare the peaches, put 250g sugar, water and juice of one of the lemons in a pan and bring to the boil, making a light syrup. Score the tops of the two peaches in a criss-cross pattern. Blanch the peaches in the boiling syrup for 10-20 seconds. Remove from the syrup and place in iced water. Once the peaches are cold, remove the skin, putting them to one side. Cut the flesh into even wedges, discarding the stones.
Place the peach skins together with the remaining 50g of sugar, juice of the second lemon, lemon zest and peach liqueur into a pan and bring to the boil. Cool the liquid, place in a blender and purée. Pass the mix through a sieve and mix with the peach wedges.
To make the ice-cream, put cream, milk, both citrus zests and lemon verbena in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove pan from the heat, cover and stand for 30 minutes. Whisk the sugar and yolks together till they whiten. Reboil the milk mix and combine with the yolks and sugar. Place in a clean pan and return to a gentle heat. Cook mix to 85°C, stirring constantly. When temperature is reached, pass mix through sieve and churn.
To assemble, place peaches in a bowl. Put a ball of ice-cream in the middle of the peaches. Decorate with redcurrants.
Jun Tanaka, head chef, Pearl, Renaissance Chancery Court hotel, London