English asparagus has started early this year and, although it is expensive and cheaper alternatives are arriving from Chile and Spain, it's the best you'll find. The morel season is now finishing in Europe and will be moving to North America in the next couple of weeks. The first big rainfall of April will see St George's mushrooms spring up, as well as mousserons (also called fairy ring champignons). Wild herbs are at their best at the moment. Wild leeks from Scotland and wild garlic are in good supply and the first wild sweet cicely is arriving this week, while wild heracleum is also in abundance - normally found in hedgerows, it is now being farmed but still retains all the qualities of its wild counterpart. Nettles are at their best, while wild asparagus will be arriving from France soon, continuing into June.
Source: Fresh Direct 01869 365600 www.freshdirect.co.uk
There have been good landings of summer species, such as John Dory, grey mullet and sea bass, while the price of native lobsters is finally starting to drop. Excellent landings of hake and monkfish are arriving, although the latter is abundant only up to 2kg but scarce at larger sizes. The turbot season is well under way now, and the fish are down in price due to the large numbers on the market and also because some will be carrying roe. Irish wild trout is now available, as is sewin (sea trout), caught from coracles in South Wales. Mussels have fully recovered but squid is scarce. Plaice is expected by the end of the month, and gulls' eggs will be available from some suppliers from Monday.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707 www.chefclubdirect.co.uk
Demand for legs of lamb is outstripping supply at the moment, so prices are high. As a result, though, shoulders are excellent value, as there are so many available. It will be a couple of weeks yet until there are enough lambs ready to satisfy the demand for legs.
Meanwhile, the good weather is still pushing up the price of summer barbecue meats - such as forerib of beef, which has seen a price jump of 40p per kilogram over the past three weeks - and pushing down the price of roasting meats, such as silverside and topside.
Source: The Ginger Pig 020 7935 7788
New-season asparagus mousse with morels and langoustines
Ingredients (Serves four)
50ml Noilly Prat
10g chervil, chopped
200ml single cream
2 large shallots, finely chopped
150g cleaned morels
100ml white chicken stock
25ml double cream
12 large langoustine tails
Chervil sprigs for garnish
Peel all the green from the asparagus, chop and set aside. Chop the white of the asparagus and sweat in a warm pan with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt until soft. Add the Noilly Prat and reduce until it's almost gone, then add the green of the asparagus and the chopped chervil. Cook for a further minute.
Place in a liquidiser and blend until smooth, then pass through a fine sieve and chill immediately. Mix the purée with the beaten eggs and single cream and re-season. Pass again and pour into a dish (preferably a ramekin) that has been lined with soft butter. Cook at 80°C for 10 minutes in a water bath.
Sweat the chopped shallots in butter until translucent, add the morels and sweat for a further minute, then add the Madeira and reduce until dry. Add the white chicken stock, reduce by half, add the double cream and re-boil, then re-season (maybe with a dash of lemon juice for a little bite of acidity).
Simply sauté the langoustine tails in olive oil and a knob of butter, turn the mousse out on to the plate with the langoustines, and cover with the creamed morels.
Dress with a few sprigs of fresh chervil.
Aiden Byrne, head chef, the Grill at the Dorchester, London