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.
February 21st, 2017
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.
March 15th, 2016
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.
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
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
1tbsp icing sugar
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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)
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
240g self raising flour, sifted
600-700g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-2 cm chunks or coarsely grated
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.
December 15th, 2015
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