English asparagus is well and truly here but suppliers are still waiting with bated breath for the first Mousseron and St George's mushrooms. Jersey Royals are easing in price as outdoor crops are being harvested, but most other potato varieties are going up in price and onions are still through the roof. Peppers and radicchio are still problem products but are slowly improving.
Fresh peas in the pod are more plentiful now but still expensive, while broad beans are also available. For a taste of the exotic there are Thai Yellow mango, Indian Alphonse, Mali Red mango and Aussie giant mango available - all sweet and with a character of their own.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
New-season lamb is very cheap this year, almost 20% down from two years ago. An early Easter has meant there's still plenty of cheaper old-season lamb available, which butchers would rather sell to customers, plus plentiful amounts of new-season lamb because of the good weather, so there's plenty around to meet demand. As a result, a rack of new-season lamb isn't much dearer than a rack of old-season.
The good weather has meant steaks rather than forequarter meat are in demand, resulting in higher prices. A lot of forequarter meat is being turned into burgers much earlier than usual this year, and once the public turn away from roasts they remain in that mind-set until autumn, even during prolonged wet spells.
Expect price rises in cooked meats as demand is up for easy produce such as ham and cooked beef to go in picnics and salads.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
There have been very good landings of hake, John Dory, red mullet, turbot, lemon sole and monkfish. Good buys at present are black bream or grey mullet, which is cheap at about £3.50 per kg.
Wild sea trout is available, but expensive at £17.50 per kg. Scallops and langoustines are available but squid is expensive and scarce. Native lobsters are down in price and there are fantastic cockles from the Isle of Skye. The first porbeagle shark is arriving, as are Irish urchins.
The short gull egg season is experiencing increasing interest and it may be hard to get hold of any before more are gathered next week.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Roast hake, salmon mousseline, trompette and Parmesan mash, fish consommé and Parmesan tuile
250g Desirée potatoes
250g salmon fillet
1 egg white
280ml double cream
Half bunch of chives
1kg hake fillet
About 20 large leaf spinach
115ml olive oil
250g unsalted butter
50g trompette mushrooms
16 baby carrots
16 baby leeks
16 asparagus tips
280ml fish stock, clarified
Cook potatoes for mash. Keep warm. Prepare salmon mousseline: remove skin and bones from salmon fillet, blend with egg white and salt. Add 140ml cream, blend again and pass through a fine sieve. Add chopped chives, adjust seasoning. Place in fridge.
Scale and fillet hake, remove bones, leave skin on. Wrap salmon mousse in blanched spinach. Enclose with hake fillets. Wrap in crépine and roll tightly with clingfilm to form a cylinder, tie with kitchen string. Set in fridge.
Prepare Parmesan tuile: place template on Baco mat. Finely grate enough Parmesan to make five or six shapes and spread it thinly and neatly on Baco mat. Remove template and bake in preheated oven at 220°C for 15-20 minutes. Remove, allow to cool and harden.
Cut hake into portions about 75mm long. Sear in hot, non-stick pan using olive oil or a little butter. Remove the clingfilm. Place in a preheated medium hot oven for 10-15 minutes. Reduce 50g of butter and 140ml of double cream and add to mash. Fold in the seared trompettes and the rest of the grated Parmesan.
To serve, gently simmer clarified fish stock, spoon into deep plate, dress with lightly cooked baby vegetables and a quenelle of Parmesan mash topped with the tuile, place roast hake in centre.
John Armstrong, chef-proprietor, the Puesdown Inn, Compton Abdale, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire