Talking seasonal sense... by Cristian Picco

Updated: Mar 21

I believe the inability to get around the dinner table with family and friends has been one of the toughest sanctions to swallow during the pandemic. I doubt anyone has escaped unscathed, whether it’s having foregone a birthday celebration, a festive gathering, a graduation dinner or a friends’ reunion.

As restrictions start to ease, I've noticed an increasing demand from families and groups wishing to reunite with a private dining experience. It makes sense - being from Italy, for me food and family are inextricably linked. Looking back, all my best memories stem from sitting around the table with extended family, friends and my children, enjoying authentic dishes created from the freshest seasonal ingredients.

When I was growing up in Italy, I remember my father always growing his own vegetables and producing his own wine. He took great pride in harvesting the produce at the perfect time. This had a huge influence on me as a chef - I thrive on knowing the provenance of every ingredient I use, knowing my suppliers by name, sampling produce before I buy. The most exquisite flavours can be created by simply using the perfect combination of the best quality, seasonal ingredients.

We are fortunate that Scotland is rich with incredible produce which I love to use in my recipes, in addition to importing traditional, quality Mediterranean ingredients - from truffles and cheeses to oils and wine.

Above all, I love to cook with produce that is in its seasonal prime. It makes sense - eating seasonal produce not only tastes better, but it saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint. Right now, you can find an abundance of the most delicious seasonal produce, from tomatoes, mushrooms and courgettes to scallops, rocket and artichoke, my favourite!

June to September is prime season for the delicious, earthy Chanterelle mushroom. They have a rich, complex flavor - a delicate balance of pepper, butter and earthiness with a hint of fruity apricot, ideal for risottos and sauces. Another delicious ingredient coming into season is the bramble. No cultivated berry can match their flavour. In fact, some under-used patches can be found on Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh! In July and August we can also find the most beautiful heather honey. And of course, living in North Berwick, now is the perfect time to enjoy lobster, when their meat-to-water ratio is at its highest.

The art and enjoyment for me is in creating exquisite combinations of flavours using seasonal products of provenance that remain authentic and quintessential to their region.

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