January has come back to life!

January 25th, 2017

We are now back in full swing and suddenly January business has come back to life! This evening there are going to be Burns night celebrations everywhere and I’m hosting a table in HIX Mayfair for both friends and anyone who would like to join!

This weekend I’m up at Cheltenham Racecourse, home of the National Hunt horse racing, for the Festival Trials Day and representing the Stewart family with Paul Stewart on their sponsored race ‘Hugo’s restaurant Barbados Trophy Steeple Chase’. Of course I’ll be having a little dabble… or four and I’ll of course be backing the Stewart’s horse Saphir du Rheu.

I have been part of Cheltenham festival for the last couple of years but in a culinary way, collaborating with The Lucky Onion group who have hotels No. 131, and No. 38 The Park, cooking ticketed dinners which are always great fun.

…And in case you’re wondering I’m not on dry January as it’s quite tricky in this business so I’ll be working as usual on new cocktails with Dustin and our bar team, creating seasonal cocktails with seasonal ingredients like Yorkshire rhubarb and an interesting imported Bergamot which is the base of earl grey tea.

As the weather gets colder, I find myself reminiscing about my summer of fishing and festivals. For those of you who made it to my Food Rocks festival with your umbrellas, you would probably agree its gaining momentum each year with chef’s demo’s along with new and established producers from the West Country. These festivals are always a great way to showcase local producers and chefs especially in a great setting like Lyme Regis overlooking the sea.

This year was our fourth year in teaming up with Guitars on the Beach which brings together a great collaboration of food and music which is becoming ever popular at festivals across the country as it just makes sense with like-minded creative artists, this also brings a great crowd to Lyme.

The next thing on the food festival calendar is Seafood Week which raises awareness of the great seafood we have on our doorsteps in British waters. Being brought up in West Bay, Dorset, I’ve grown up with great fish and shellfish from an early age which many people seem to neglect or are just scared to cook with or eat.

Restaurants all over the country will be showcasing great British seafood during the week of 7th-14th October.

Following on from Seafood Week is the Dartmouth Food Festival which I take part in every year. On the first night of the festival (21st October) I cook a dinner at Mitch Tonks’ restaurant The Seahorse.

Roasted shellfish

Serves 2–4

A big dish of mixed shellfish is a great indulgent dish to order in a restaurant or serve for a dinner party. You can really use any kind of shellfish, but try to limit the selection to about four varieties, or you will have too many different cooking times to contend with.

I like to serve the shellfish scattered with some seashore vegetables, to add that extra little taste of the sea. You can also use wild garlic leaves or hedgerow garlic instead of garlic cloves.

 

1 live lobster, weighing about 700g

2-3tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 medium or 12 queen scallops, cleaned, in the half-shell

500g cockles, clams or mussels (or a combination), cleaned

6 razor clams

120g butter

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

A couple of handfuls of seashore vegetables, such as sea beet, samphire or sea purslane

2tbsp chopped parsley

 

Place the lobster in the freezer an hour or so before cooking to make it sleepy (deemed to be the most humane way of preparing live lobsters for cooking).

Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.

Heat a large roasting tray in the oven for about 10 minutes, adding the rapeseed oil for the last couple of minutes.

Split the lobster in half through the head and down the back, using a heavy, sharp knife, and crack open the claws. Season the lobster and lay flesh-side down in the roasting tray. Roast in the oven for approximately 10 minutes.

Season the scallops and cockles (or ordinary clams or mussels). Add to the roasting tray and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Finally, add the razor clams, butter and garlic and roast in the oven for a further few minutes until they are just opened.

Meanwhile, plunge the seashore vegetables into a pan of boiling lightly salted water and blanch for 1 minute, then drain thoroughly.

Remove the roasting tray from the oven and toss in the seashore vegetables and chopped parsley. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve at once.

Short trip to Massaya, Lebanon

February 2nd, 2016

I love short trips away as if you make the most of it (which we certainly did), it feels like a whole week’s break.

Last time I visited the Massaya winery in Tanai  on Mount Lebanon 3 years ago it was mid-summer and Sami and Ramzi Gosn had all of the foundations laid and some of the build completed of their new winery in Faqra, about an hour and a half down the mountains towards Beirut. My most recent visit, a couple weeks ago, was rather different: the new winery with two restaurants was finished, and the mountains were full of snow. So much so in fact, that the morning after I cooked a HIX dinner for everyone, Sami had to shunt us down to the coast to escape a worsening blizzard.

Our party consisted of Catherine Cheek from Christopher Piper Wines down in Devon, Jeremy Hunt of Thorman Hunt, and chef and food writer, Clodagh McKenna. Ramzi and Sami put on a British night in the winery restaurant for friends and family, and we all mucked in to prepare the dinner. We cooked up a storm with some local ingredients incorporated into the HIX menu (see below), watched over by Ramzi who plays the role of chef de cave et cuisine as well as overseeing the winery.

Post evacuation from the hotel in the mountains, we did a little tour of the coastline. Sami stopped in a small fishing hamlet called Okaibe, south of Biblos, at a fishmonger’s shop who sell these unusual scallops called safad, that look like a cross between abalone and an oyster. On closer inspection of the empty shells piled up on the marble slab, they had all been cleaned and the meat put into small plastic tubs which we then bought and ate with sea salt and lime juice as a little late-morning snack. We then realised that the fishmongers had a little restaurant attached where you could select your menu from the marble slab and eat it next door. This was music to our ears and a perfect last lunch before we departed.

Sami sent out for a bottle of his Massaya Arak which we drank on ice to wash down the delicious mezze starters and local fish selection. The Lebanese tabouleh they served us as a starter was, I think, the best I’ve eaten. It had no bulgar or couscous in it, which Sami told us was typically used to bulk it out in poorer countries. This pure version was a true Lebanese salad.

For dinner we went to Sami’s good friend Walid Ataya’s bar and restaurant. Walid always cooks up a kind of Italian-Lebanese fusion that is inspiring and delicious, and his cellar is a gem with really interesting Italian wines from small producers. Walid took rather a liking to the HIX Fix cherries the night before and would keep disappearing from the dinner table to charge his glass with 5 or 6 cherries at a time! I think I’m going to get him a bucket shipped over for personal consumption.

 

MENU

Whipped beetroots with walnuts, labneh and za’tar

Massaya Blanc 2015

Mark’s apple and oak smoked salmon with Clodagh bread

Massaya Rosé 2015

Small fig birds in pomegranate molasses

Massaya “Le Colombier” 2014

Beef fillet and sirloin roasted over Massaya twigs with Yorkshire puddings

Terrasses de Baalbeck 2012

Bread and butter pudding

Massaya Cap Est 2013

Seasonal Busyness

December 15th, 2015

We are now in the thick of seasonal busyness and the restaurants are full of Christmas parties, so just able to grab a quick minute to tell you about the last month.

Late November is the perfect time to go truffle hunting. This year Mitch Tonks and I along with a few other truffle enthusiasts escaped to Bologna in Northern Italy for a four day truffle hunting expedition. This by far is one of the best truffle finds of my career, 500g of true perfection. Truffles have been called “diamonds of the kitchen” because of the exquisite earthy taste they bring to food.

This month I will be supporting a charity that is very close to our hearts in the hospitality industry, Action Against Hunger. With the refugee crisis as it is, over 12.2 million people are in urgent need of food, water and shelter. Action Against Hungeris a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger. The organization helps malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to families in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan. If you would like to help contribute in any way you can do so here; www.actionagainsthunger.org.uk

Last week I headed back to Art Basel in Miami where 267 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa show significant work from the masters of modern and contemporary art, as well the new generation of emerging stars. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films and editioned works of the highest quality are on display, as well as ambitious large-scale artworks, films and performances that become part of the city’s outdoor landscape. It is a fantastically creative festival which is very inspiring. A whirlwind of a trip with plenty of eating and drinking and catching up with friends.

Back into the kitchen, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas

MHix