Monday, 17 January 2011

January, What’s in Season This Month

At the commencement of the year, we are starting to crave for fruit other than apples and pears, its time to look out for the first early forced rhubarb. It’s still really the season for root vegetables and cabbages of all types and whilst we are awaiting for the new season lamb we can still enjoy the last of the game, and while fish is plentiful, some boats have hit really bad weather so expect some fish prices to be a little high.

The weather has been freezing or miserable, many of us are thinking they should be on a diet or a detox cure after the Christmas excesses, and no-one’s got any money so it must be time to make soup it’s easy, it’s quick, it’s nourishing and it’s cheap.

Why spend money on expensive supermarket ready-prepared soup when you can make a large panful yourself in less than 20 minutes with fresh vegetables bought on the market? Make enough to feed the family and have some left over for the freezer.

British winter fruit and veg is not just for Christmas; feast on it especially after a sharp frost and don’t forget Spring is not long in coming!

Cheshire and Stilton cheeses are at their best this time of year, Kale, Spinach, Leeks, Swedes, Celeriac, Cabbage, Turnips are at their peak and just coming in are Winter cabbages, new carrots and the first of the early forced rhubarb.

Cauliflowers from Cornwall make a tasty cauliflower cheese and the leeks from Lancashire are simply great for those soups and casseroles.

Mussels, Crabs, Oysters and Lobsters are really delicious now and I find that British beef is very good value Maureen and I have just had a pot roast made with a jolly good bit of brisket.

I can’t emphasise enough that the winter months are the time to enjoy British root vegetables and stores of local fruit and being harvested this month are leeks, green cabbages, parsnips, turnips, sprouts, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, shallots, mushrooms and forced rhubarb.

Fruit at Its Best

Apples, Cranberries, Passion Fruit, Pears, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Clementine’s, Satsuma’s, and Tangerines, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Truffles (Black And White), and Walnuts.

Vegetables at Their Best

The humble carrot is best in January as are Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Horseradish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes (Maincrop), Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radishes, Rhubarb, Rocket, Salsify, Shallots, Spinach, Swede and Turnips.

Meat, Poultry and Game at Its Best

Beef, Duck, Goose, Grouse, Guinea Fowl, Ham, Hare, Lamb, Partridge, Pheasant, Pork, Rabbit, Turkey, Venison, And Wood Pigeon.

Fish and Seafood at Its Best

Brill, Clams, Cockles, Cod, Conger Eel, Crab, Dab, Dover Sole, Eel, Haddock, Halibut, Hake, John Dory, Langoustine, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackerel, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Plaice, Scallops, Sea Bream, Skate, Squid, Turbot and Winkles.

Herbs etc. at their best

Chestnuts, chives, coriander, mushrooms (cultivated), parsley (curly) and wild mushrooms.

The Latest Grocery News for January 2011

Last month this section was about the supermarkets but it has been pointed out that doing a section on all the news about our groceries would be much better so here we are bringing you the hottest news on products in the high street, markets, corner stores, supermarkets and other major items of interest about British food and what is our analysis of what we think is of interest.

EU orders U.K trawlers to dump 1million tons of fish,

Fresh anger over “mad” European Union fishing quotas erupted last night after an investigation showed that British fishermen are being forced to throw back nearly half of every haul into the sea.

New figures revealed that nearly a million tons of edible fish are chucked overboard every year across the whole North Sea trawler fleet.

The shocking extent of the waste caused by the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy will be shown next week in a Channel 4 documentary by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

“It’s not just a few undersize or damaged fish. It’s basket after basket of prime cod and coley,” Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said. He calculated that around 600 kilos of fish were thrown back after one five-hour trawl of the nets.

“I could have fed 2,000 people with these fish but EU law says they can’t be landed, they must be thrown back”, the TV chef said.

EU fish quotas were introduced to protect dwindling stocks of fish by curbing excessive fishing of certain species. But the regulations mean crews are forced to dump millions of dead fish when over the maximum limit.

English and Welsh fishing vessels have discarded 4.8 million cod, 3.9 million haddock, 4.9 million plaice, 737,000 sole, and 17 million whiting in the last 10 years, according to Government statistics.

Tory backbencher Peter Bone, a member of the Better off Out group of MPs, said: “Nobody in their right mind would think it sensible to chuck millions of perfectly edible fish into the sea. This is purely to support an EU fishing law that has failed.

Britain must get back its powers over fishing rights. And the best way to do that is to get out of the EU.”

The Channel 4 programme shows how the 600-ton trawler the Seagull fished for monkfish, megrim, and ling after using up its quota for cod months ago.

Gary Much, skipper of the Seagull, tells the programme: “I can’t put a sign on the nets saying: ‘No cod today, please.’ “If we could land all the fish we catch, we could go to sea for half as many days using half the fuel and no fish would be wasted. It’s madness.”

Hugh’s Fish Fight is to be broadcast on Channel 4 next Tuesday to Thursday at 9pm.

Celebrity chefs make gurnard and dab fashionable

Strange species of fish could become the trendiest dish for a dinner party following a TV campaign by celebrity chefs to promote more sustainable fisheries off Britain.

The new campaign is being launched to persuade people to consider trying a new piscine experience. The campaign will feature on a celebrity chef-fronted Channel 4 season and Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall will take the lead in advising viewers that for every meal of salmon, cod and tuna, people should eat one containing abundant species such as gurnard and dab.

Other News

  • The Co-operative has become the first retailer to switch its own label sliced bread to 100 per cent British wheat. Note, both Tesco and Sainsbury's use 100 per cent British wheat for products made in their in-store bakeries but not in sliced pre-packed loaves.
  • Goose producers have launched the first ever label for British free-range geese so look out for it in-store!
  • The Co-operative has launched one of its biggest ever food campaigns. The supermarket is trying to encourage people to change their shopping habits and shop locally: 'Good food within easy reach.'
  • M & S has launched a new 'Lovely Vegetable' range, which will contain a minimum of two of the recommended 5 A DAY. Seasonal British vegetables will be used where possible, with new dishes being introduced depending on what's in season.
  • Sainsbury's and Morrisons lead the sales of English top fruit. Figures by the English Apples and Pears organisation show Morrison has increased its share from 19.6 per cent to 21.2 per cent this season and Sainsbury's holds a 25 per cent share. Meanwhile, Asda has struggled to perform this season with their share falling from 13.5 per cent to only 11 per cent.

Local Shopping

imageTACHBROOK STREET MARKET

  • Address, Tachbrook Street, SW1
    Trading hours, Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6pm
    Nearest tube, Victoria or Pimlico
    Bus 2, 24, 36, 185, 436

Open every day except Sunday, the number of stalls in this ancient street market increases as the week moves forwards, the market offers a wide array of goods from home furnishings and gardening equipment, to fruit and veg, fresh meat, fish, shellfish and bread and cakes, the market is home to an array of events counting late night shopping, gourmet lunchtime offers, ‘Fashion Thursdays’ and it will be hosting a brilliant Christmas market. Managed by Westminster Artisans Ltd on behalf of Westminster Council it is set to be a community hub thanks to its lively diverse array of stalls with scrumptious international hot food the paella is superb, fresh food, chocolate, cheese, olive oil, bread, funky fashion, and lots more. Discover different stalls on different days

Dates for your diary: Spring 2011 - Pimlico Food Festival

On Sonny’s Stall Tachbrook Street Market

imageWhat a pleasure it is to see such fresh produce full of vibrant colours this week was no disappointment with what was on offer. There was Apples, Gala, English Russets, Braeburns and Bramleys, Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Courgettes, English King Edward Potatoes, English Raspberries, Fennel, Field Mushrooms, Leeks, Mache (Lambs Lettuce), Parsnips, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radish, Watercress, While Peaches, some fantastic pumpkins and squashes and you can plainly see that all of what was available was in first-rate condition.

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Our Local Butchers have been getting in

imageAs well as the customary cuts of meat on offer at Freemans they also had some exceptional beef we had a fantastic piece of brisket for pot-roast, also on show was some truly fine oxtail and at under £6 a kilo you just can’t go wrong.

We had some excellent pork loin chops at a much more attractive price and quality than is offered by the supermarkets.

Alhayat had some exceptional Heather Fed Scottish lamb, British rosé veal and chicken and at a fantastic price, you can’t go wrong giving this shop a go.

Our Local Fishmonger Jon Norris Tachbrook imageStreet Market

After a short Christmas break Jon is back and I think the people queuing up for his wares are getting longer and its no wonder as this week he had on offer some outstanding plump succulent Cornish Pollock (see below for my notes on this versatile cousin to the Cod) on his stall, you had your choice of steaks and fillets and one lady was buying a whole Pollock which Jon gladly cleaned and prepared it for her

His display as usual was a picture with Brill, Clams including sweet plump Razor Clams, Cod fillets, Cod steaks, Crab, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Megrim Sole, Dover Sole, Gilthead Bream, Cornish Gurnard, Lobster, Scottish Mackerel, Mussels, Monkfish, Native Oysters, Cornish Octopus, Plaice so plump and sweet, Pollock this is a must to try, Prawns, Rock Oysters, Scallops from the Isle of Man, wild Sea Bass, Skate, Sprats, Squid, Turbot, and Cornish Whiting, most all Jon’s fish is from around the Cornish, Devon and Scottish coasts and his prices are so competitive you must give this talented and exceptional fishmonger a try, you won’t be sorry.

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Jon’s Tips to Buying Fish and Shellfish;

Fresh Whole Fish

  1. The eyes should be clear and convex, not sunken
  2. The flesh should be firm and resilient to finger pressure
  3. The fish should smell freshly and lightly of the sea
  4. Don’t buy fish with a strong ‘fishy’ or sulphurous odour, or that smells of ammonia.
  5. Oily fish like herring, mackerel, and salmon should have a light, fresh oil smell, like linseed oil. If they smell of rancid oil, don’t buy.

Fresh Fillets

  1. The surface of the fillet should be moist, with no signs of discolouration.
  2. The texture should be firm, with no mushiness. Some separation of the muscle flakes (caused by the filleting process) is completely normal, but it shouldn’t be excessive.
  3. As with whole fish, the smell should be fresh and light, with no ‘off’ odours.
  4. Live bi-valves (including mussels, clams and oysters)
  5. The general rule of not buying bi-valves during any month spelled without an ‘r’ (i.e. May to August) still holds true, as this is the spawning season and quality will be poorer. When raw, the shells should be closed tight. Any slightly open shells that don’t close up in response to a few light taps should be discarded. When cooked, the shells should open – discard any that don’t.
Pollack our Fish of the Week

Pollock or Pollack is one more those fish which is frequently disregarded by consumers in this country, who instead plump for Cod or Haddock.

Our Celtic cousins across the Channel take another view stop at any fish restaurant in Brittany and ‘Lieu Jaune’ (Pollock) will habitually be the daily special or main attraction on the menu.

The worth that the French place on Pollack is reflected by the price they are will charge, conventionally Pollock have been caught either by inshore fishermen using hand lines around the rocks or as a extra catch by fishermen fishing for cod and other round fish type. Nevertheless, improved access to the French market has resulted in increasingly rising prices paid at first auction for Pollock. As a consequence, local fishermen are fishing for Pollock with hand lines and gill nets, fishing in their preferred locale;

In reaction to mounting prices and the ever-increasing price placed on line caught fish, talks are presently being held about the labelling of Pollock in the same way that line caught Bass are labelled (see www.linecaught.org.uk) providing “line-to-plate” traceability.

Another good reason to try Pollack is that around 90% of the Pollock landed in the UK is caught off the south west coast and landed into Cornish Ports landings are steady at just over 1000 tonnes per annum and the stock levels are said to be ‘stable’ by ICES Fisheries Scientists.

Pollack is available most of the year but more plentiful in the first and second quarters of the year, with 60% of the annual catch being taken in February, March and April.

Recipes for January

Pan Fried Pollack

A tasty fish dish from Raymond Blanc, don’t forget that the French think Pollack much more important that we Brits do and I think this dish is one of the best ways to introduce family and friends to this beautiful fish.

Serves / Makes:      4 servings

Prep-Time:               15 minutes

Cook-Time:              30 minutes

You Will Need

For the pommes purées

1 kilo / 1lb 2oz potatoes, such as Desirée, Belle de Fontenay, Estima or Maris Piper, peeled, cut into quarters

2 litres / 3 pints 10½ fl oz. cold water

200mls / 7 fl oz full-fat milk

60 grams / 2½oz unsalted butter

2 pinches sea salt

2 pinches freshly ground white pepper

For the Pollock

30 grams sliced white bread, cut into 1cm/½in cubes

4 x 180 grams / 6 ounce Pollock fillets, about 3cm/1¼in thick, skin on, bones removed

4 pinches sea salt

1 pinch freshly ground white pepper

60 grams / 2½ ounces unsalted butter

50mls / 2 fl oz hot brown chicken stock

50ml / 2 fl oz hot water

30 grams / 1¼ ounces capers, drained, rinsed

½ lemon, peeled, segmented, roughly chopped

30 grams / 1¼ ounces shallot, peeled and finely chopped

30 grams / 1¼ ounces caper berries

10 grams /½ ounce chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

10 grams / ½ ounce chopped fresh chervil

Method

For the pommes purées, bring the potatoes to the boil in a large pan of cold, salted water. Reduce the heat until the water is just simmering and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

Drain well in a colander, setting the drained potatoes aside for 2-3 minutes to drive off the excess steam.

Mash the potatoes until smooth using a potato ricer or masher. Return the potato purée to a saucepan, add the milk and beat well until combined.

Beat in the butter until the mixture is fluffy and forms firm peaks, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, for the pollock, preheat the oven to its highest setting. Scatter the bread cubes onto a large baking tray and dry roast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. Remove the croûtons from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Pat the pollock fillets dry using kitchen paper, then season all over, to taste, with the salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter is foaming and starting to brown, add the pollock fillets, skin-sides facing upwards, and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until two thirds of each fish fillet has turned opaque.

Using a fish slice, carefully turn each pollock fillet over and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the fish fillets to a cold ovenproof frying pan and roast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, or until just cooked through, then set the fish fillets aside on a warm plate to rest.

Return the frying pan used to cook the pollock to a high heat. Add the brown chicken stock and water and bring to the boil.

Add the capers, chopped lemon segments, shallots, caper berries and two-thirds of each of the herbs. Stir well and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, or until warmed through. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

To serve, spoon the pommes purées into the centre of each of 4 serving plates. Place one pollock fillet on top of each portion. Spoon over the caper and lemon sauce, then sprinkle over the croûtons and the remaining herbs.

Ham Hocks the Irish Way

Sweet succulent ham hocks served with a colcannon mash and cheese cream, this is a very tasty dish and will keep family and friends coming back for more.

It seems like I have been cooking this dish all my life although it has been tweaked a little from the original dish I first cooked for a young farmer’s dinner way back in 1974.

Serves / Makes:      8 servings

Prep-Time:               overnight

Cook-Time:              2 hours

You Will Need

For The Ham Hocks

2 x 350 gram ham hocks, soaked in a bowl of cold water overnight

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon, white peppercorns

200 grams, clear runny honey

50 grams, wholegrain mustard, I use grey Poupon

For The Colcannon

1 tablespoon, vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely sliced

250 grams, mashed potato

30 grams, unsalted butter

30mls, double cream

250 grams, cabbage or kale, blanched and sliced, we use Savoy, January king, or green pointed

1 tablespoon, wholegrain mustard, again I use grey poupon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For The Cheese Cream

450mls, double cream

1 teaspoon, garlic paste

1 bay leaf

250 grams, cheddar cheese, grated, we have used both Lancashire and Cheshire cheese

Method

For the ham hocks, rinse the ham hocks with fresh water. Place them into a large pan and cover with water.

Add the onion, carrots, and bay leaf and white peppercorns, bring to the boil reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for two to three hours, or until the meat is tender and falling from the bone. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C/Gasmark 6.

Trim the outer layer of fat from the cooled ham hocks, and then make criss-cross patterns in the remaining soft fat on the hocks using a sharp knife.

In a bowl, mix together the honey and mustard until well combined.

Line a large roasting tray with aluminium foil fill the tray with the ham hocks and the boiled vegetables spread the honey and mustard mixture all over the ham hocks then roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, basting frequently with the juices that collect in the roasting tray, or until the ham is tender and completely cooked through.

Meanwhile, make colcannon, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat add the onion and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened and golden.

In a large bowl, mix together the mashed potato, butter, cream, blanched cabbage and mustard until well combined and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Transfer the potato mixture to the frying pan with the onions in and press down to form a large potato cake. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown on one side turn over, using a plate if necessary to help you, and fry on the other side for a further 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown on both sides.

For the cheese cream, in a separate pan, bring the double cream, garlic clove and bay leaf to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, then simmer the mixture until the volume of liquid has reduced by a third, this takes about 10 to 12 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the garlic clove and bay leaf and return the liquid to the pan add the grated cheese and stir until completely melted.

To serve, carve the ham into thick slices, and divide equally among eight serving plates, place a spoonful of the colcannon alongside each now spoon over the cheese sauce.

Serve and Enjoy!

Notes

Side dishes don’t come more Irish than creamy colcannon; it is a traditional Irish dish mainly consisting of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. It is also the name of a song about that dish.

Colcannon is traditionally made from mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, butter, salt, and pepper. It can contain other ingredients such as milk, cream, leeks, onions, chives, garlic, boiled ham, or Irish bacon. At one time it was a cheap, year-round staple food, though it is usually eaten in autumn/winter, when kale comes into season An old Irish Halloween tradition was to serve colcannon with prizes of small coins concealed in it, as the Irish and English do with Christmas pudding.

The song "Colcannon", also called "The Skillet Pot", is a traditional Irish song that has been recorded by many artists, including Mary Black. It begins:

 Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?

 With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.

 Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake

 Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

 The chorus goes:

 Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.

 And the more I think about it sure the nearer I'm to cry.

 Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,

 And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.

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