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Book review: British Seasonal Food by Mark Hix

28 August 2008

British Seasonal Food
Mark Hix
Quadrille, £25
ISBN 978-1-84400-622-9

Bookshop shelves across the country must be bulging under the weight of new books with "British" and "seasonal" in their titles, so it would be easy to be blasé about another one. However, when it's by someone with a pedigree like that of Mark Hix, it pays to take notice.

This new book is a logical follow-on from Hix's last, which centred on British regional food. Its structure is interesting, forgoing the traditional four-season format and instead mirroring the 12 months of the year.

This allows Hix to be far more specific, and consequently informative, about ingredients: after all, the natural growing cycle is not neatly quartered - produce seasons overlap as a matter of course. The monthly detail is a real bonus for quick referencing.

Another bonus comes in the form of the randomly dotted boxes, mostly on specific ingredients but also on broader-ranging produce categories - anything from cauliflowers to wild duck to "fish bits." By fish bits, Hix means cod tongues and chitterlings, monkfish livers and the like - parts of the fish that are often discarded. There are recipes for all of them - the cod tongues with pork belly, and the chitterlings with hedgerow garlic, for instance.

It's part of his philosophy to use every bit of a fish carcass - and that goes for meat and vegetable produce, too. There are plenty of recipes using braising techniques and, as Hix is also a keen forager, many of the dishes detailed in the book use wild produce - such as sea purslane, dittander and hogweed. Wild garlic and nettle soup is one of the more mainstream recipes.

The recipes themselves are straightforward, with a strong showing of Hix's versions of traditional British dishes such as devilled kidneys, or faggots. It's particularly good on game dishes, not so hot on desserts (clearly not Hix's "thing") and has some interesting salads: ham hock and pea salad (with both peas and pea shoots) for instance.

Hix also seems to have a penchant for duck eggs (look out for the duck egg with savoy cabbage and smoked salmon).

This is definitely a book bursting with information and constitutes a great source of reference for our native produce.

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