Conger eel, Israeli samphire, and Scottish beef

14 April 2005
Conger eel, Israeli samphire, and Scottish beef

Fish There were poor weather conditions last weekend, so landings were down. However, conger eel, gurnard, mackerel, mullet, sardines and wytch sole should hold their price, as should Dover sole, though at present they are either very full of roe or very thin. Best to avoid. There should be stock of cod and haddock from Iceland and the Faroes, while plaice should be available from the UK and Denmark. The price on farmed salmon should also remain steady.

M&J Seafood
01296 588221

Fresh produce The first of the Israeli fresh samphire is appearing again. The supplies are sporadic at first until the European crop arrives. Spanish asparagus is now plentiful and the first of the much-anticipated English asparagus has been spotted - although the price so far has been high. There is also plenty of outdoor-grown British rhubarb available.

San Marzano tomatoes, generally used for canning and processing, are now excellent from Italy. With thick flesh, they are perfect for making sauces and soups. Yellow wax beans are becoming plentiful and make an unusual alternative to green beans.

Egyptian medlars have arrived again, but the fruits are small.

Chef's Connection
020 7627 4809

Meat The quality of the best Scottish beef is still wonderful and in good supply. Price remains high, but it's worth it. There is some new-season lamb available, but it's still not at its best.

Looking through our old records, it is interesting to see that foie gras is the same price it was four or five years ago. It appears to be becoming more and more popular, and is certainly not the pricey product it used to be.

Aubrey Allen
024 7642 2222

… and how to use them

Vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb and strawberry compote and vanilla doughnuts

Ingredients (Serves 10 )
For the panna cotta:
1 litre double cream
100g sugar
2 vanilla pods, scraped
2 leaves gelatine, soaked in ice-cold water
For the compote:
750g rhubarb
1 punnet strawberries
500g sugar
400g water
For the vanilla doughnuts:
225g strong flour
4g salt
15g yeast
25g sugar
25g butter
15g whole egg, pasteurised
100ml warm water
Vanilla sugar

Method To make the rhubarb and strawberry compote, peel the rhubarb and cut into 5cm batons. Hull, wash and halve strawberries, then place all ingredients in a pan and gently simmer over low heat until the fruit is just cooked. Be careful not to make it too hot, otherwise the rhubarb will break down and go to mash.

Remove from the heat and chill in the liquor. Once chilled, remove fruit from the liquor, place on a dry cloth and set aside. Strain liquor off through a chinois and reduce to a syrup. Pass through the chinois again.

For the vanilla doughnuts, place sieved flour, salt and sugar into mixing machine with a dough hook. Dissolve yeast in water and add this to the flour while mixing. When combined, add eggs and softened butter. Mix until you get a smooth dough. Roll into 10g balls. Prove, and deep-fry in vegetable oil at 180íC for 30 seconds.

To make the panna cotta, bring cream, sugar and scraped vanilla pods to a simmer. Add soaked gelatine. Whisk, pass, cool on ice and stir occasionally - but do not leave to set.To serve, place the rhubarb and strawberries in whisky glasses to about one-third of the way up. Pour the panna cotta in until 1cm from the top and set in the fridge. When set, pour a thin layer of syrup on top and serve with warm doughnuts rolled in vanilla sugar.
Trevor Tobin, head chef, Chapter Two, Blackheath, London

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