Born and raised in South Africa, Madalene Bonvini-Hamel ate locally and seasonally long before these concepts became fashionable, and it wasn't until she moved away from home that she realised not everyone lived that way.
"Growing up and eating and enjoying seasonal foods seemed to be so normal at home in South Africa, but once I moved to Europe and started to work in restaurants, especially Michelin-starred kitchens, serving foods such as asparagus in December was very much the done thing … Consequently, ingredients lost so much of their beauty and appeal, and seasonality just didn't seem to be high on the agenda."
The chef moved to Suffolk, in the east of England, and started a successful gastropub (now closed) called The British Larder, where "local and regional seasonal food became an obsession … I developed a burning desire to shout about British regional seasonal foods and it gave me the opportunity to focus on one specific county, and one that has so much to offer from the surrounding land and sea."
The life she describes in Suffolk sounds like a dream for those who like to know the provenance of their food and care that the animals they cook and eat are raised humanely.
"Each season has its own beauty and brings its own glorious collection of goodies to life. Not only do the different seasons mean enjoying the wide range of seasonal foods that are readily available at that time of year, but they also mark special events and occasions on the calendar."
The chapters in the books are divided up by months. The winter recipes, naturally enough, emphasise root and cruciferous vegetables, game, citrus and long, slow cooking methods. Spring and summer recipes concentrate more on young vegetables and lighter flavours with dishes that are cooked quickly. There are recipes for wild boar and lemon thyme popcorn; chilled pea soup with cheddar cream and soft boiled quail's eggs; lavish lobster macaroni bake; cardamom and golden sultana hot cross buns; slow-cooked pork belly with crab apple jelly and caramelised damsons; pan-fried partridge with caramelised figs and fig vinaigrette; pan-roasted teal with pearl barley and damson vinaigrette; rabbit en croute with creamed savoy cabbage and turnip purée; and Jerusalem artichoke and walnut pithiviers with cranberry and port sauce.