The oyster lover’s oyster

September 8th, 2017

September is another great month in the British food calendar – the month we celebrate our native oyster season. The native is the oyster lover’s oyster, a whole different kettle of fish to the more common rock oyster. It’s rounder and flatter and slower growing, hence the more intense flavour, with strong notes of iron and minerals.

 

You may end up paying twice as much for natives over rocks, but it’s worth ordering both to get an idea of the difference. All of our oysters from the many oyster fisheries around the coast will have different flavour profiles depending on where they are grown, rather like the terroir in wine making.

 

On 16 September we’re hosting a mini oyster festival at Hix Oyster and Chop House, where a host of oyster growers, suppliers and chefs will be shucking, talking, drinking and sharing their knowledge, so come along and celebrate with us. Here are a couple of simple dressings to serve with oysters, although I do advocate eating natives just as they are.

 

Ref: http://www.cityam.com/271447/our-resident-chef-mark-hix-native-oyster-oyster-lovers

Over the years I’ve held and hosted a lot of dinners and lunches matching all sorts of drinks like whisky, tequila, beer and of course wine. We’ve even matched food with art too! Years ago I was invited to Dom Perignon along with David Thompson, Mark Edwards, Pascal Aussignac and Georgio Locatelli to each cook a course at the chateau. Each course, Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy had successfully matched a champagne, including David Thompson’s fiery Thai green curry. This shows anything is possible if you put your mind to it, although somewhat challenging! Cooking in Mexico was one of those rare challenges. Matching every one of the six courses to Tequila and Mescal and having to shop for it, but it’s a challenge I love wherever I am in the world.

Last week I was presented with a new challenge; I hosted a dinner in my Kitchen Library for Sonos called the ‘Playlist Potluck’ dinner. I’ve used Sonos at home for years so this was a great dinner to host with some friends in the creative world. The challenge this time was to create a menu and match a song to each dish. My guests, who included Stephen Webster, Alice Temperley, Miranda Donovan and Nicky Clarke all had to create their own play list for the evening.

My part in fact, was really quite simple, I thought rather than my normal menu wording which includes the provenance and the producer where relevant, I would just use one word for each dish, leaving a lot for the imagination.

As always, Kevin and I put together a simple menu, using words like lobster, caviar, chicken and egg, cheese etc. All the guests are very familiar with our menus from the restaurants so I thought this ’one word dish’ would throw them a little, especially when the lobster course turned up as a lobster won ton broth. I often cook Asian or Indian when throwing a dinner party as it’s not what my guests expect from me so that’s why the Sonos playlist potluck evening worked so well.

British asparagus season

March 15th, 2016

This year we have seen some great early season asparagus, giving us a head start in our restaurants. Here is a collection of my favourite asparagus recipes form my Independent column.

I adore asparagus, so I always try and get it the moment it first becomes available. It doesn’t really have an official season, as such, but over the past few years changing weather patterns have meant it is ready to be harvested in early March. So that is when my suppliers, the Chinn family from the Wye Valley, usually send mine.

This year, we got a one-box-only delivery of delicious green spears in February, which was a little surprising. Of course, they may have been grown under polythene to encourage them to come up quickly. But we shouldn’t complain too much about that, as our asparagus growers face stiff competition from Peru and other countries which have longer seasons and import to British supermarkets most of the year round. Although the foreign variety may be a little cheaper, British asparagus is unbeaten when it comes to flavour, so it is always best to buy that if you can.

Fried egg, chorizo and asparagus

Serves 4

This is a lovely brunch or breakfast dish. Add a piece of toast or fried bread if you want to make it more substantial. Alternatively, you can mix things up by using a duck egg.

Take care when choosing your chorizo. Nowadays, you can get some particularly fine British versions. The Bath Pig and Trealy Farm both produce chorizo that is as good as some of the best Spanish examples.

4 free-range hen or duck eggs
Rapeseed or olive oil for frying
12 mini cooking chorizo
8 or 12 medium-sized stems of asparagus
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Cook the chorizo under a medium-heat grill for 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally so it colours evenly. While it is cooking, put the asparagus spears in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, or until they are just tender, then drain in a colander.

Gently fry the eggs in the oil, seasoning them lightly as they cook. Transfer to warmed serving plates, cut the asparagus into 2 or 3 pieces, and scatter around the eggs with the mini cooked chorizo.

Blog asparagus 1

Over the past few years changing weather patterns have meant asparagus is ready to be harvested in early March (Image: Jason Lowe)

Thai asparagus soup

Serves 4

This soup is a great way to use up any excess asparagus you might have hanging around.

If you would like to give it even more of an Asian flavour, add black fungus or shiitake mushrooms.

250g asparagus with the woody ends trimmed (keep the offcuts for the broth)

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small leek, washed and roughly chopped
1 stick of lemon grass, roughly chopped
2 lime leaves
A small piece (about 20g) of root ginger or galangal
3 cloves of garlic
Stalks from Thai basil and coriander
1.5ltrs of vegetable stock
2tbsp Thai fish sauce

For the garnish

1 stick of lemon grass, outer leaves trimmed off, and finely chopped
4 lime leaves
A small piece of root ginger, peeled and shredded
1 mild red chilli, seeded and sliced
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the angle
A few sprigs of Thai basil
A few sprigs of coriander
60g Oriental mushrooms – enoki or hon-shimeji

Put the woody ends of the asparagus in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, skimming regularly, for 1 hour. Strain the soup through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan and season with salt and pepper.

Now, take the asparagus and slice thinly on the angle. Add this and the other ingredients for the garnish to the pan. Simmer for a minute, then serve.

Asparagus with shellfish

Serves 4

You can use whatever shellfish you can get your hands on for this.

16 medium asparagus spears with the woody ends removed
16-20 medium prawns, cooked and peeled
200-250g freshly-cooked cockles or clams, removed from the shell
200-250g freshly-cooked mussels, removed from the shell
4-5tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
The juice of 1 lemon
½tbsp chopped fennel or dill
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

 

Blog asparagus 3
Keep it simple: Asparagus with shellfish (Image: Jason Lowe)

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes, then drain. Mix the shellfish with the oil, lemon and dill or fennel, then season to taste. Arrange the asparagus on serving plates and top with the shellfish.

Salmon cooked in rapeseed oil with asparagus and wild garlic

Serves 4

Cooking fish in oil at a low temperature is rather like poaching it in a court bouillon, except you get a bit more flavour into the fish this way. Plus, the oil that you have used can be made into a simple dressing, kept in the fridge for use next time, or added to egg yolks to make a hollandaise or mayonnaise.

4 portions of salmon weighing about 150-160g each, boned and skinned
250-300ml rapeseed oil
1tsp fennel seeds
A couple of sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
1tsp flaky sea salt
8 or so spears of asparagus, with the woody ends removed
A handful of wild garlic leaves, washed

 

 salmon blog
Salmon with asparagus and wild garlic (Jason Lowe)

Put the rapeseed oil into a saucepan which is large enough to hold all the salmon fillets. Add the fennel seeds, thyme, peppercorns and salt. Put the pan on a low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Now add the salmon fillets and cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Cook the asparagus separately in boiling, salted water for 4-5 minutes, or until tender, then drain in a colander. Cut the asparagus into 3 pieces on the angle and place in a saucepan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking oil and the wild garlic leaves. Season and heat for a minute, stirring until the wild garlic leaves are just starting to wilt.

To serve, transfer to warm serving plates.

Game: Rich winter treats

February 14th, 2016

Mark Hix, Weekly Independent Column. 12th Feb 2016

I’m in the fortunate position of being able to acquire game during the shooting season, which I then store in the freezer. I normally just quickly pull the feathers and skin away from the flesh on the carcass, then freeze the breasts, thighs, and drumsticks separately, to make rich winter treats such as the ones below. This is what we have butchers for, but whatever way you prep it, game is a great dish for this time of year.

Game rillettes
Serves 6-8

Rillettes are always handy as a standby snack or a starter for a dinner party, or to take on a picnic, shoot or fishing trip.
500g game meat, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
500g pork belly, rind and bones removed, cut into 2-3cm chunks
200g duck fat
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
½tsp ground nutmeg
2tsp freshly ground black pepper
2tsp flaky sea salt
2 bay leaves
6 juniper berries, roughly chopped
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Put all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed ovenproof dish with a lid, pour in 150ml of cold water and gently bring the contents of the pan up to a simmer. Cover with a lid and put into the oven for 3-3½ hours. Stir occasionally and add a little more water if the liquid has evaporated. The rillettes are done when the meat is falling apart.
Empty the contents of the pan into a colander or sieve over a bowl. Allow to cool a little and remove the bay leaves.

With a fork or very clean fingers break up the pieces of meat into shreds; any large remaining pieces of fat will have to be chopped up with a knife or broken up in a blender. Transfer to a clean bowl, then mix in enough of the strained fat to form a creamy paste. Add a little more salt and pepper if required.

Transfer the mix into sterilised preserving vessels such as Kilner jars. Spoon a little more fat on top and seal. Refrigerate for up to six months.

Wild duck pastilla
Serves 4

If you’ve been to Morocco you may have come across pastilla. It is their native pie, usually made with pigeon along with almonds, sugar and cinnamon – which may have originally been used to disguise the gaminess of the birds.

2-3 wild ducks with the meat removed from the carcass, skinned and cut into rough 1-2cm chunks
Bones from the duck carcass
1ltr chicken stock (or use a quality cube)
6tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A good pinch of saffron
1tsp powdered ginger
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp chopped coriander
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tsp salt
1tbsp icing sugar
100g butter

About 20-24 warka pastry leaves or sheets of filo pastry, about 18cm square
60g melted butter
5 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
For the sugared-almond mixture
350g ground almonds
5tbsp icing sugar
3tbsp orange-flower water or 4tbsp water
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
To serve
Icing sugar
Ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Chop the duck bones and simmer them gently in the chicken stock for 45 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve and discard the bones.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, and fry the pieces of duck for a couple minutes on a high heat until nicely coloured, stirring every so often. Add the onion, garlic, saffron, ginger, parsley, coriander, pepper and salt, and stir well. Add the strained stock, bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Add the tablespoon of icing sugar and the 100g of butter and simmer for another 20 minutes. The meat should be tender now and the cooking liquid quite rich and flavoursome, and just coating the meat. If not, simmer a little longer. Break the meat up a little into the sauce with the back of a spoon and leave to cool.

To assemble the pastilla, first take a straight-sided tart or cake tin with a removable base (or a bottomless flan ring on a baking tray) measuring 18-20cm across by 5-6cm or more deep. Brush the bottom and sides with some of the 60g of melted butter. Lay a square of pastry on the base. Then lay on another 5 sheets all round the tin, overlapping the central sheet on the base, then going up the sides of the tin so half the sheet overhangs the edge ready to be folded over later.
Game 2

Mark has swapped pigeon for duck in his pastilla (image: Joe Woodhouse)

Mix together all the ingredients for the sugared-almond mixture and spread half of it on the base of the pastry, leaving about 1cm around the edges. Place 2 more sheets of pastry over the sugared almond mixture. Mix the chopped eggs with the duck mixture and spoon all the filling over the pastry.
Cover with 2 more leaves of pastry. Spoon the rest of the almond mixture over the pastry then cover with a couple more leaves. Brush with more butter and fold the overhanging sides up and towards the middle. Cover with one more sheet and firm down the top with your hands.

Bake the pastilla in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Carefully run a knife around the edge to loosen the sides, and place a serving dish or flat plate upside down over the tin. Carefully invert the pastilla on to the plate and then slide on to a baking tray or the base of the tart tin without the sides.

Brush all over with melted butter, return to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes. If it’s browning too much, cover with foil and turn the oven down.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Then, using a fish slice, carefully transfer to a serving dish. Cut some long strips of paper about 1cm wide. Dust the top, preferably with a dredger or fine sieve, with some icing sugar then lay the strips a couple of centimetres apart and dredge with the cinnamon to create brown and white stripes. Serve hot cut into wedges.
Planning ahead tip: you can cook the filling for this a couple days in advance and assemble just before cooking.

Polenta with game ragu
Serves 4
You can use any game for this wonderfully hearty dish, perfect for February.
A few tablespoons of vegetable oil
300g game meat in a rough 1cm dice
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
100g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into a rough 1cm dice
1tbsp plain flour
2tsp tomato purée
2 sticks of celery, peeled if necessary and cut into a rough 1cm dice
1tsp chopped thyme or oregano leaves
100ml red wine
750ml hot beef stock
1 small can of chopped tomatoes
For the polenta
750ml milk
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
A pinch of nutmeg
75 g quick cooking polenta
100 ml double cream
75 g freshly grated parmesan

Heat a little vegetable oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Season the game meat and fry in a couple of batches on a high heat for 3–4 minutes until nicely coloured, then add the onion, garlic and pancetta and continue cooking for 3–4 minutes without colouring. Stir in the flour and cook on a low heat for a minute. Stir in the tomato purée, celery and thyme, then gradually add the red wine, beef stock and tomatoes, stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil, season, lower the heat and simmer gently for about an hour or until the meat is tender.
Meanwhile bring the milk to the boil in a thick-bottomed pan, then add the garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper and nutmeg.
Simmer for 5 minutes then whisk in the polenta and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. A simmering plate is useful for this. Add the cream and parmesan and cook for a further 5 minutes. To serve, spoon the polenta on to warmed serving plates and spoon the game ragu on top.

Bramley Apple Week

February 10th, 2016

Mark Hix, Weekly Independent Column. 6th Feb 2016

I love the taste of Bramley apples in a recipe. It always reminds me of my grandparents. They had a couple of trees in the garden, and two or three times a week the apples would find their way on to the table, whether in an apple sauce for the roast pork on a Sunday, or a pie or crumble for a dessert or aft er-school treat.

It’s actually Bramley Apple Week next week. I think it’s good to raise the profile of foods that people may have forgotten how to cook, particularly ones like this that suit so many sweet and savoury dishes. If you haven’t used them for a while, I’d say that Bramleys are ripe for rediscovery.

Jerusalem artichoke and Bramley apple soup

Serves 4-6

Jerusalem artichokes have no particular connection to Jerusalem, and nor are they artichokes. They do, however, have a lovely, slightly sweet and earthy flavour that pairs superbly with Bramleys.

A good knob of butter
1 leek, shredded and well washed
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into quarters
1.5 ltr vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2-3 large Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into rough 1cm cubes
2tbsp double cream

Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently cook the leek for about 3-4 minutes until soft. Add the quartered artichokes and the vegetable stock and lightly season. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes, then add the apple and continue simmering for another 10 minutes until the artichoke is cooked.

Blend in a liquidiser until smooth – you can adjust the consistency, if necessary, by adding a little more stock – then strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the cubed artichokes for 4-5 minutes, seasoning them as they are cooking, until they are nicely crsip and golden, then drain on some kitchen paper.

To serve, reheat the soup, adding the cream, and season to taste. Transfer to warmed soup bowls and spoon the crisp artichokes over.

Duck livers with Bramley apple purée

Serves 4

I love cooking dishes like this based around just a couple of simple, tasty ingredients. It’s all about matching and marrying big, classic flavours.

You can use chicken or duck livers, but ensure that they are fresh and not previously frozen, as they can go a bit mushy when defrosted. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try using pig, lamb or even deer liver.

2 medium Bramley apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
½tbsp caster sugar
60-70g unsalted butter
200g fresh duck livers with the sinew and any green bits removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mark-Hix-Jason-Lowe.jpg
Duck livers with Bramley apple purée (Image: Jason Lowe)

Put the apples in a heavy-based pan with the sugar and half of the butter. Cook on a gentle heat with a lid on for 4-5 minutes, stirring as it’s cooking until the apples are soft. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth in a liquidiser, then return to the pan and keep warm.

Season the livers, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan until it’s foaming, then fry the livers for a couple minutes on each side, keeping them nice and pink. To serve, spoon the apple purée on to warmed serving plates and arrange the livers on top.

Bacon chop with roast Bramley apple

Serves 4

Frying slices of apple is quite an old-fashioned practice. It really brings out the sweetness and together with the butter makes for a lovely partner to bacon.

A couple of good knobs of butter
1tbsp caster sugar
1 large Bramley apple, topped and tailed and cut into 4 thick slices
4 x 150-200g rindless bacon chops (streaky or back)

Mark-Hix-Jason-Lowe.jpg
Bacon chop with roast Bramley apple (Image: Jason Lowe)

Heat a preferably non-stick frying pan with a little butter. Sugar the apples and fry on a medium heat for a couple minutes on each side until golden, basting with more butter during cooking.

Meanwhile, heat a ribbed griddle or heavy frying pan and cook the chops for 3-4 minutes on each side, then arrange on warmed serving plates with the apple.

Bramley Apple and farmhouse cheddar cake

Makes 1 loaf

This is a great cake to serve as a teatime treat or as an unusual accompaniment to a winter soup.

170g unsalted butter, softened
60g soft brown sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
1tbsp honey
240g self raising flour, sifted
600-700g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-2 cm chunks or coarsely grated
80ml cider
200g grated farmhouse cheddar plus a little extra for scattering

Prepare a loose-bottomed, roughly 23cm x 11cm x 9cm deep loaf tin by greasing it lightly if it’s non-stick, or lining the base with buttered greaseproof paper if not. Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3.

Transfer to the loaf tin, scatter the extra cheese on top and bake for 1¼ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then carefully turn out. Serve while warm or later at room temperature.

While most of us like traditional fare at Christmas, that doesn’t mean you can’t ring the changes by tweaking and improving cooking methods, or finding new ways of serving the regular ingredients.

Find the recipe on the Independent website

GQ’s super-chef, Mark Hix

December 14th, 2015

Does he like to spend his time in the kitchen? Treat him with some new hardware, as recommended by GQ’s super-chef, Mark Hix.

Take a look at Mark Hix’s Christmas gift guide, for men who like to cook in GQ Magazine.