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.



This isn’t a resolution…

January 23rd, 2017

How long have I been here? Even more concerning where the bloody hell am I? I stood alone unable to bear the solitude of New Year’s daybreak, midnight’s embrace smudged, and lingering, stained lips.

Nobody mention the weather, only in times of paramount vocal paralysis, horizontal cloudburst with a negative thermometer reading aren’t kind to the ill prepared, leather jacket with no zipper and a right boot with a nasty hole in the sole.

The inaccessible shelter’s ghostly facade appeared abandoned for decades, its inhabitants left in a hurry from something rather nasty one was lead to imagine. Dusty fingerprints etched the windows. A fire place piled with half burnt oak logs crumbled to ash. Cracked beige tiled floor littered with disorderly open return tickets destined never to make it home. A motionless clock where time physically seized into a black hole of nothingness.

When the mind begins collapsing, your damp bones have a way of reminding you there is no such certainty of dry January. Just when I thought it was over, the rail lines began vibrating, steam filled the void in-between my carriage taking me anywhere but here, yet it doesn’t halt rather powering through conducted by insanely egotistical politicians aboard smuggling our passing lost heroes from yesterday to the ever after.

In times of need when one along with the wide, folks turn to the bottle numbing the hilarity of our modern world, however on this occasion, I decided to choose a new, yet ancient holistic approach, this isn’t a resolution thus why I waited to the end of the month. Too many are more than pleased to shout of their inevitable three day future-selves failures. I have done this too many times taking part in a one man imitation game, learning from the errors of my ways.


Sea buckthorn birch sap steep with dried Mugwort

Serves 4

 sea buckthorn

1 250ml bottle of Forager’s Sea Buckthorn juice & Birch Sap
Handful of dried Mugwort
Drop of honey
Boiling water
1 vintage kettle
A few funky glasses
4 in need and willing friends

It’s quite simple really, steep the Mugwort in your boiling water for 3 minutes to fully infuse, pour 50ml of the sea buckthorn birch sap into each glass and start pouring the infused boiling water, and add honey to taste for those with a sweeter tooth. Don’t be scared to reuse the Mugwort as with tea the second brew is always better than the first, what’s the saying? Keep the last one for the one you love.

Sea buckthorn or the nerdy word Hippophae is a coastal dense berry with a vibrant orange allure, tart in taste due to its high malic acid content and packed with enough vitamin C to cure even the worst case of winter blues. A little goes along way.

Mugwort is traditionally used by village healers and mystics. On a recent trip to the south on a team outing, our forager tells us that if you stick Mugwort in your pillow case before bed it can induce lucid dreaming, certainly worth a try! It contains many of the same chemicals wormwood does so if you fancy a night with the green fairy you know what to do, all that ‘new you’ good behaviour might just go flying out the back door!


Dustin MacMillan

Festive recipes for sharing

December 6th, 2016

The Christmas period is fast approaching and now is the time for gathering friends and families for a festive feast… the perfect time to show off!

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.

Take greens for example, there are those who love them and those who hate them, that’s why I want to show you how to spruce them up and make them exciting to the point where people are fighting over the last spoonful!

Below are a couple of recipes which will help brighten up the dinner table this Christmas, both in colour and in taste!

And what better way to finish off than with a bloody delightfully messy Christmas mess!


Sprout tops with bacon and onion

Serves 6-8 sharing 


Sprout tops are one of the most flavoursome greens and they have the hint of a Brussels sprout with the texture of healthy greens. They’re probably a bit more versatile than the sprout itself and can be served with anything from chestnuts to bacon.

You can cook these in advance and drain them under a cold tap to stop them cooking further and discolouring. They can then be simply mixed with the cooked bacon and onions, buttered and seasoned and either reheated in the oven with foil while the partridge is cooking or in the microwave.

1.5kg sprout tops, stalks trimmed, washed and large leaves halved 
3 medium onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced 
100g butter 
250g piece of smoked or unsmoked streaky bacon, rind removed and cut into small rough cm cubes 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Gently cook the onion and bacon in the butter in a covered saucepan for 4-5 minutes, stirring every so often, until soft, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile cook the sprout tops in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes until tender, then drain in a colander, gently squeezing out any excess water. Toss the sprout tops with the onions and bacon and season to taste. Reheat as above.


Crispy prawn kale hearts

Serves 4-6


This is a version of the crispy seaweed you often see in Chinese restaurants – which isn’t actually seaweed at all, but shredded and fried spring greens. I normally deep fry my prawn shells or use them to make a broth or bisque, but a few weeks back I thought they maybe rather good, dried and blended up like the dried fish topping you get on that Chinese seaweed.

1 head of curly kale, washed, trimmed and torn into 2-3cm pieces, then dried
Vegetable or corn oil for deep-frying
Flaky sea salt
A handful or so of cooked prawn shells and/or heads
1tsp dried chilli flake

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Deep-fry the curly kale in handfuls at a time, moving it around in the pan with a slotted spoon for a couple minutes until crisp, then transfer to some kitchen paper and scatter with a little salt.

Now deep-fry the prawn shells for a couple minutes or so until very crisp, then drain on some kitchen paper and leave to cool. Chop the prawn shells as finely as you can with a heavy chopping knife or blend to a coarse powder in a food processor with the chilli and some salt to taste. If the prawn shells aren’t really crisp then transfer to a baking tray and dry them out in the oven for a few minutes. To serve arrange the crispy kale on a serving dish and scatter over the prawn shells.


Christmas Mess

Serves 4-6


Although cranberries are not British, along with turkey they have become a symbol of our Christmas Day celebrations. Cranberries have a lot more going for them than just serving as a turkey accompaniment, and along with chestnuts you can create interesting desserts and savouries.

You don’t need to go to the trouble of making fresh meringue unless you really want to: there are plenty of good ready-made examples on the market that will do perfectly well in this dish.

500ml double cream
80g caster sugar
40-50 chestnuts
2tbsp icing sugar
150-200g ready-made meringue

For the cranberry sauce

200g fresh cranberries
90g sugar
1 small stick of cinnamon
Juice of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

Make an incision in the top of the chestnuts with a small, sharp knife and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, then remove and leave to cool. Meanwhile put the cranberries, sugar and cinnamon into a heavy-based saucepan with the orange juice and cook on a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and then simmering gently for about 20-25 minutes until the cranberries have softened.

Check the sauce and add a little more sugar if you think it’s necessary. Leave to cool.

Peel the chestnuts, removing as much of the brown skin as possible and then place them on a baking tray lined with foil; dust them with the icing sugar. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning every so often. Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff; you can do this in a mixing machine if you wish.

To assemble, stir about two-thirds of the cold cranberry sauce and two-thirds of the chestnuts into the cream, spoon on to the meringues and then arrange on individual plates or on one large serving plate. Spoon the rest of the cranberry sauce over and scatter the chestnuts on top.



Comforting autumnal recipes

October 28th, 2016

Each year when summer draws to an end, we make a swift move from light summer salads to heavier, heartier cooking. When Autumn kicks in, I like to start thinking ahead to the festive season and the food that becomes available. Personally, I love all types of Winter squash and whether you bake, roast, puree them or have them raw, the possibilities are endless.

Here I share some of my Autumn and Winter recipes which are perfect for those cold evenings. Oh… and we must not forget about that tipple to finish with, what better than a boozy eggnog!

Pumpkin and chorizo soup

Serves 4-6


Every year we see more and more varieties of pumpkin and squash in the shops, and they make such delicious, hearty soups. This is a nice chunky fireside soup that’s almost a stew, with a little bit of its own heat. Cooking chorizo is best for this, not the slicing variety which is drier and hence tougher when cooked.

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp fresh thyme leaves
120g cooking chorizo, cut into 1cm chunks, or slices
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp flour
1.5 litres hot vegetable or chicken stock
500-600g peeled weight of firm fleshed pumpkin, or squash, cut into 11/2-2cm chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp chopped parsley

Gently cook the onion, garlic, thyme and chorizo in the olive oil in a covered pan for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often, without colouring. Add the flour and mix well then slowly stir in the hot vegetable stock, a little at a time to avoid lumps forming. Season and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the pumpkin and continue cooking for 15 minutes or so.

Blend a ladleful of the soup, including bits of pumpkin and chorizo, in a blender until smooth then return to the pan with the parsley. Simmer for a few more minutes and serve.

Macaroni pie

Serves 4


I had something like this in Barbados some years ago which was delicious. I don’t think its a native Bajan recipe, but its likely something that has made its way over from the States. Serve thix extremely rich pie with a few dressed green salad leaves. It really doesnt need anything else.

200-250g shortcrust pastry, rolled to one-third of a cm thick
150g macaroni, cooked
300g mascarpone cheese
150g grated cheddar plus another 20g to scatter on top
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5.

Grease and line an approximately 25cm x 3cm-deep flan tin with a removable base with the shortcrust pastry and trim the edges. Line with foil or greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans, bake for about 15 minutes then remove the greaseproof paper and beans and return to the oven for another 6-7 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the oven up to 220C/gas mark 7.

Meanwhile, melt the mascarpone in a thick-bottomed pan with the Cheddar and bring it to the boil. Add the double cream, season with salt and pepper and simmer for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Whisk the sauce well and mix with the cooked pasta.

Put the macaroni mixture into the flan case and scatter the extra Cheddar on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned.

Chocolate and pumpkin pie

(available at all HIX restaurants)

Serves 6-8


If you are struggling to find a ripe orange-fleshed pumpkin, use butternut squash as they tend to be consistent in flavour and ripeness.

for the pastry

125g unsalted butter
180g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
250g plain flour
Flour for dusting

for the filling

700g orange-fleshed, ripe pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeded and cut into rough chunks
1/2tsp mixed spice
60g of butter
1 small egg, beaten
200ml double cream
200g good quality dark chocolate
150g caster sugar

to serve

Pumpkin seeds
Icing sugar

First make the pastry. In a food processor, mixer or by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until they are smooth and creamy. Slowly add the beaten egg, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often if you are using a mixer, until mixed well, then slowly fold in the flour, mixing to a smooth dough. Mould the dough into 2 balls, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the pastry out on a floured table to about 3mm thick. f Cut 4 discs large enough to line 6 x 10cm x 3cm-deep individual tart tins or a large one measuring approximately 18-20cm wide and 4-5cm deep. This pastry is quite delicate, but forgiving. If it starts breaking up on you, just patch it up when lining the tins and mould the pastry back together with your fingers. Lightly brush the tins with some melted butter and line with the pastry discs to just above the top of the tin. Neaten up the edges of the pastry by pinching with your thumb and forefinger all the way around, then leave to rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Put the pieces of pumpkin in a roasting tray with the mixed spice and the rest of the butter. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until soft, giving the occasional stir. Take out, drain and cool in a colander. Blend the pumpkin in a liquidiser until smooth and push through a conical strainer if you have one or a colander if you don’t (a sieve is fine too) to remove any fibrous strands. You will need approximately 250g of the purée for the pie; don’t worry if you’re a little short.

Bring the cream to the boil, mix with the chocolate and sugar and stir until dissolved. Return the pumpkin to the blender with the chocolate mixture and egg and blend until smooth.

Turn the oven down to 150ºC/300°F/ gas mark 2.

Remove the tarts from the fridge and line the pastry cases, or the single case, with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden. Leave to rest for 5 minutes. Remove the beans and paper. Pour the pumpkin mix up to the top of the tart case and bake for 15 minutes for individual tarts or 30 minutes for a large one until the filling has set.

To serve, put the pumpkin seeds on some foil on a baking tray, dredge with icing sugar and bake for 10 minutes or so until golden. Carefully cut the pie into generous slices and scatter the seeds on top and serve with crème fraîche or mascarpone.

Yorkshire Parkin

Serves 4


100g self-raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
A good pinch of mixed spice
A pinch of salt
30g pinhead oatmeal
175g dark brown sugar
100g butter
100g golden syrup
60g black treacle
20ml milk
1 large egg, beaten
For the ginger toffee sauce
200ml double cream
200g dark brown sugar
tsp ground ginger
150g butter
Pre-heat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Sift the flour, spices and salt into a bowl. Stir in the oatmeal and sugar and make a well in the centre.
Meanwhile, melt the butter, golden syrup and treacle over a low heat, whisking to emulsify, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Mix into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon, then beat the milk and egg together and stir into the mixture until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a greased, preferably non-stick loaf tin, or you can use individual pudding basins, and bake for 45-50 minutes (half that time for individuals), leaving the mixture slightly soft to the touch. Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so before turning out.
For the toffee sauce: put all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to ensure the butter and sugar has melted. Simmer on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat. Slice the parkin into 4 pieces horizontally, spoon some of the sauce on to each slice and reassemble back into the cake tin. Re-heat in the oven for about 5-6 minutes then turn out on to a warmed serving dish for the large one or individual plates for the small versions.
Spoon over the rest of the sauce and serve with clotted cream


Serves 4


3 Clarence Court Burford Browns eggs, separated
75g caster sugar
450ml full fat milk
150ml double cream
75ml Somerset cider brandy
75ml el Dorado 8 year old rum
25ml Madeira
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar with an electric or hand whisk for 2-3 minutes until light and frothy then add the milk, cream, alcohol and half of the spices until well combined.
In a clean bowl with an electric or hand whisk, beat the egg whites and the rest of the sugar until fairly stiff, then fold into the egg yolk and alcohol mixture. Serve in tumblers or mugs and scatter on the rest of the spices.




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.

Glorious Twelfth

August 12th, 2016

The Glorious Twelfth is upon us, the first day of grouse season! Not only is the grouse the first feathered game bird of the season, it is also one of the tastiest. A whole grouse on a plate isn’t to everyone’s taste and as a nation, of course, our bird of choice is the blamelessly bland chicken. But the delicate richness of grouse is a taste that is well worth acquiring and – with a little creativity and imagination, it’s easy enough to find ways to prepare it that will tempt even the most timid palates.

While the bird itself is a bit of a luxury in terms of cost, it goes a lot further than you might think. Once the meat has been eaten, the carcass and legs can be cooked up into a good gamey gravy, or turned into a full-flavoured broth that makes a superb base for soups.

Here are four of my top grouse recipes for the season.

Breast of grouse with corn drop scones and girolles

Serves 4

A brunchy grouse dish for game-lovers or someone weaning themselves onto the bird. Again, you can make this with any game bird – even quail or pigeon.

2 oven-ready grouse
A couple of knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of thyme
A few sage leaves
120-150g girolles or other wild mushrooms
1tbsp chopped parsley
Grouse gravy to serve (see below)

For the drop scones

110g self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
120-130ml milk
120g cooked sweetcorn kernels, roughly chopped
A little vegetable or corn oil

First make the drop scone mixture. Put the flour into a bowl, stir in the egg, sweetcorn and enough of the milk to form a smooth batter and season.

Season the grouse inside and out: put the sage and thyme inside the birds and rub the breasts with butter. Place on a baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes at 180 degrees, keeping them nice and pink.

To cook the drop scones, heat a griddle pan or a trusty frying pan and rub it with a little vegetable oil. Drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and let them cook for 3 minutes until bubbles rise, turn them over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper while you are cooking the rest and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil and butter in a frying pan and cook the girolles on a medium heat for a few minutes until they are tender then stir in the parsley.

Meanwhile, remove the breasts and legs from the grouse, place the drop scones on to warmed serving plates, slice the grouse breast a few times and arrange on top. You can remove the leg meat and scatter over with the girolles then spoon over a little grouse gravy.


Grouse or game gravy

I hate throwing game carcasses away. I tend to make a nice, rich game gravy for the freezer from it. It saves you running around at the last minute trying to cobble together something decent.

The cooked carcasses from two, or more, grouse or game birds, chopped
2-3 large shallots, peeled and chopped
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
½tbsp plain flour
A good knob of butter
100ml red wine
600ml strong brown beef stock (a good-quality cube will do)

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the carcasses and shallots on a fairly high heat for a few minutes. Turn the heat down, add the butter and stir in the flour, then gradually add the red wine and stock; simmer gently for about 30 minutes, a simmer plate is great for this, if you have one.

The sauce should be a good thickness by now, if not thicken with a little cornflour diluted in cold water – or you can continue simmering until it thickens. Now strain through a fine-meshed sieve.


 Grouse, spelt and herb salad

Serves 4

Spelt is a great grain for adding a bit of flavour to a gamey salad like this. I often use it in place of rice in a risotto, as it holds up really well and is quite healthy with it.

2 oven-ready grouse
A few sprigs of thyme
A few sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of small tasty salad leaves and herbs, washed and dried
30-40g spelt, soaked in cold water for a few hours
2tbsp rapeseed oil
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp chopped chives
1tbsp chopped chervil

For the dressing

1tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
1tsp Tewkesbury or Dijon mustard
2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil

Cook the spelt in simmering salted water for about 15-20 minutes or until tender, then drain and leave to cool. Mix the herbs with the spelt and rapeseed oil and season to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the grouse as above, leave to cool a little before removing the legs and breasts. Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing and season.

To serve, remove all of the meat from the legs and slice the breasts into 5-6 pieces, arrange the leaves, spelt and slices of grouse on to serving plates and spoon over the dressing.


Baked potato with grouse

Serves 4

This is based on a dish I created years ago with a whole snipe. You could do this with any game bird, to be honest – you just need to make sure whatever you use has the livers still in there, so they can be chopped up and mixed with potato, which adds a superb richness to the proceedings.

4 medium-sized baking potatoes
2 oven-ready grouse, along with their livers
60-80g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little game gravy to serve (see above)

Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas 8 or the hottest it will go. Wrap the potatoes in foil and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes or until they are soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Roast the grouse as above.

Meanwhile cut about a third off the tops of the potatoes and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mix with the remaining butter and season. If the grouse have livers then sauté them, then mix in to the potato (chicken livers can be substituted if necessary).

Remove the legs from the grouse. Now remove the meat and mix with the potato. Refill the potato skins with the mixture and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the breasts from the grouse and cut into about 5 slices and arrange on the potato and pour a little game gravy over the top.


Grouse and summer squash broth

A good broth made from left-over grouse carcasses and legs makes an ideal dinner-party soup. Any game carcasses can be used for the stock.

For the game stock

2 or 3 grouse carcasses and legs, chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 juniper berries
A few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1.5ltr chicken stock (a good-quality cube will do)
Vegetable oil for frying

To serve

1 small, ripe squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into ½cm dice
1 small leek, cut into ½cm dice and washed
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp sherry
Any meat reserved from the carcass or legs

To make the broth, fry the carcasses and vegetables in vegetable oil over a high heat for a few minutes until lightly coloured. Add the juniper berries, thyme, bay leaf and chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 1 hour, skimming the surface occasionally.

Grouse and summer squash broth (Jason Lowe)

Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve and put to one side. Any meat left on the carcass and legs can be saved to garnish the soup.

To serve, simmer the squash and leeks in the broth for about 5-6 minutes or until tender. Then add any left-over grouse meat and the parsley and sherry, simmer for another minute or so, re-season if necessary and serve.

Mark’s recipe of the month: Pea and gorgonzola risotto 

Pea & Gorgonzola Risotto

A risotto is a great carrier of flavours especially something summery like the humble pea. Finish it with some nuggets of Gorgonzola and you have a great light but hearty starter or main course.

shallots 4, peeled and finely chopped
olive oil 60ml
carnaroli rice 400g
vegetable stock 1 ltr hot
shelled peas 200g, fresh or frozen and cooked
butter 100g
parsley 5g, finely chopped
gorgonzola 60g, cut into small pieces

Gently cook the shallots for a few minutes in the olive oil until soft. Add the rice and stir it well with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the hot stock a little at a time, stirring constantly and ensuring that each addition has been fully absorbed by the rice before adding the next.

When the rice is almost cooked, add the rest of the peas, and keep adding stock until the rice is soft and plump: the risotto should be quite moist. Then add the Gorgonzola, chopped parsley, cream and butter. Correct the seasoning and serve immediately.

Mark’s Pea & Gorgonzola Risotto is on the Summer menu at Mark’s Fenwick of Bond Street.

Pea and Gorgonzola risotto

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

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)

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.