Regular readers will be familiar with Russell Brown’s monthly focus on seasonal vegetables in these pages, in which he picks a hero vegetable and explores its potential.
Now the former chef-proprietor at Michelin-starred Sienna in Dorchester, Dorset, has teamed up with fisherman, forager and food blogger Jonathan Haley to create Well Seasoned, a book that is a celebration of Britain’s best produce.
As the pair point out, “the Great British public has become used to a diet of tasteless tomatoes and bland strawberries, simply because they can be cheaply imported all year round”. In this book they feature a fruit, vegetable or protein only when it’s at its absolute peak.
Structured month by month, each chapter includes advice on what is worth taking note of ‘out and about’ – whether it’s the dawn chorus in February or scrumping in September; details of superstar seasonal ingredients, such as wild garlic in March and tomatoes in August in ‘food and foraging’; diary notes for the month in ‘feasts and festivals’; and, of course, recipes.
The appendices feature detailed charts on the availability of virtually any vegetable, fruit, fish or meat you can imagine. There is an incredibly useful section on the hedgerow harvest, with seasonal availability for the likes of cobnuts, dandelions and rock samphire.
Taken as a whole, it’s a complete guide to seasonal living. The recipes aren’t challenging, but the point is simplicity and seasonality. For instance, for May we learn that we can expect to see elderflowers, crayfish and pigeon and are offered the pigeon recipe opposite, as well as Haley’s grandfather’s recipe for elderflower cordial.
Meanwhile, in July, Brown explains that cuttlefish, squid and samphire are at their best, and he even encourages the reader to partake in a little wild swimming, as well as ensuring they make use of the bountiful summer larder.
This is much more than a recipe book, celebrating seasonality beyond food, and in a professional kitchen it will be a useful year-round reference point.
By James Stagg
Well Seasoned: Exploring, Cooking & Eating with the Seasons By Russell Brown and Jonathan Haley (Head of Zeus, £25)