I often get asked what it is that inspires my menu writing, or how I stay motivated to remain in the kitchen after all these years. The truth is it’s entirely linked to the changing seasons and wonderful ingredients that each yields. I cannot overstate the importance of cooking seasonally. It has to form the basis of everything chefs do on a daily basis. It’s so easy to walk into a supermarket and be bombarded by a wall of colour and apparent freshness and vitality, but in reality, most of what’s on offer in shops these days is neither seasonal, nor particularly fresh. So that’s why it’s important to follow one golden rule - buy local.
Local doesn’t have to mean ‘just down the road’, but English folk should do all they can to buy English produce. If this is not possible, then nip across the channel to France, or have a look at the summer produce of our Mediterranean neighbours. Do not buy anything that requires a flight, or long haul transport, and be disciplined about this. Local seasonal produce usually means ingredients that are at their very best and most abundant. Happily, this also means they tend to be cheaper, as well as being better for the planet.
If you follow this simple rule, you open the door to a truly wonderful natural gift in that during certain seasons, nature produces a range of ingredients that have a huge natural affinity with each other. This means you don’t have to labour unnecessarily over recipes to work out what goes with what. It is all sorted out for you - tomatoes go with basil, eggs go with morels, salmon goes with watercress, peaches go with lemon verbena, grouse goes with elderberries and turnips…and so on. Conversely, grouse just does not marry happily with basil, and salmon fights with turnips and elderberries.
It’s God given, very simple and very clever.
So, if we buy locally, we inevitable cook seasonally - and that guarantees the freshest and most delicious food that has natural harmony of flavour.
Sourcing local ingredients is also far simpler than sourcing those that are out of season that grow on the other side of the planet. It’s important to go to the shops with a new mantra - to buy intelligently. This may require a bit of research. Not everyone is absolutely in the know of what is in season. www.eattheseasons.co.uk is a quick and easy point of reference. This will ensure you start your shopping trip equipped with the correct knowledge. It is then a case of seeking shops that try to do the right thing. Support these shops; they are likely to be local greengrocers and fishmongers. But, if you do choose to go to a supermarket, just ensure you look at all labels to make sure you are buying local produce.