Of course, many chefs have been naturally driven by the seasons for years, but in fairly recent times the words seasonal, local and sustainable have all made fashionable appearances on menus throughout the UK and rightly so, cooking in season, when products are at their best, seems rather obvious.
We have some of the most fabulous producers and products imaginable right here for all levels of culinary skill and palate. We planned our early 2011 menus to make the most of venison, quince, celeriac, forced rhubarb, hare and beetroot, we adore Uncle Joe’s eggs, enjoy reading tips from Tom Kitchin with his from nature to plate philosophy as he champions all things Scottish, we love visiting Stockbridge to try old favourites and be converted to new ones especially in George Bower or Armstrong’s, we have been recently impressed by Guy Grieve and his inspirational ethical seafood story and we can often be found referring to seasonal cook books. The most used in our collection being Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook, Gordon Ramsay’s A chef for all seasons, and The Farmers' Market Round-the-seasons Cookbook. There’s also been a recent new addition to our collection: Mark Hix’s British Seasonal Food, published by Quadrille just a couple of weeks ago.
Each clearly defined month begins with a simple, one page glimpse of key ingredients and continues with a longer list of “other ingredients not to be missed.” With every month there are some classic favourites and some nice, more unusual surprises too. Who knew when pike or pennywort was at its best?
Next, Hix helpfully talks readers through making the most of each month encouraging us to get better at shopping and cooking off the hoof and not simply fall back on the most popular ingredients and prime cuts.
The uncomplicated style is continued with the design which combines comforting, homely photography with simple original drawings and the recipes which, as you might expect, allow the ingredients to speak for themselves, scallops with purple sprouting broccoli (March) being a great example. There’s no doubting Mark’s technical ability or prowess as a restaurateur but he has made his recipes here easy to follow for those who aren’t as blessed.
The layout is straightforward (though I personally would have preferred larger text and one recipe per column or page) and again there’s a careful mix between classics such as piccalilli and cauliflower cheese (both January) and the more unusual cod’s tongues (yikes) with smoked pork belly (January) and red gurnard with sea spinach, steamed cockles and brown shrimps (February).
We’ve tried hard not to gallop ahead into future months but are already anticipating fried duck’s egg with brown shrimps and Sprue asparagus (May) and the summery delights of gooseberry and elderflower meringue pie (June)… and we’ve made a resolution to get better at foraging too. As the month's pass, this is sure to be a book we revisit time and time again.