on 26 June 2011
I've had this book since early Spring, and have cooked from it a few times, so I am happy to report that things have worked really well. I made the Gamekeepers pie - cottage pie using venison - quite delicious and tasting resolutely of venison,the flavours not at all muddied - with Mark Hix's take on red cabbage, a lovely simple recipe, not as complex as my usual recipe, but that means the cabbage flavour stands out rather than the flavourings. I am cooking Ham Hock and Pea Salad today as it is warm (finally - I am writing this end June 2011, after a miserable early summer) and have high hopes that this will be as easy to accomplish and as delicious.
Although there are some rather arcane ingredients in here, things that you are never going to see on a supermarket shelf, there are also excellent simple recipes that allow straightforward ingredients to sing for their supper, as is right if you are eating seasonally. I like to cook uncomplicated food, but don't like it to be boring, and these recipes fit nicely into that niche. The recipes, although I am sure are of modern English restaurant standard in a lot of cases, are not at all difficult to produce for any normal domestic cook.
I will carry on through the seasons and look forward to rediscovering some more foods I haven't eaten for a while.
on 5 March 2011
The fact that concern over food miles, seasonal, local and fresh are all currently high scoring words & phrases in foodie buzzword bingo is a good thing in my opinion. I far prefer to enjoy fresh produce in season than suffer some water-laden abomination that tastes of nothing and has been flown half way around the world.
Mark Hix - previously of the celeb's favourite The Ivy; now with his eponymous Oyster and Chop House in Farringdon and Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, Dorset and most recently Hix Soho, is a champion of British food and his "British Seasonal Food" has just been published in paperback.
The book is arranged by month, with six to twelve recipes per month - with more recipes for the months of plenty in the summer, with choice being more limited in winter and early spring. Original drawings illustrate the book, and there is a beautiful photograph by Jason Lowe for the majority of recipes.
The book is firmly rooted in Mark's restaurant background. It is also not a book for the fainthearted or squeamish, chitterlings, brawn and offal make delicious appearances, making this book much more than just another run of the mill seasonal cook book. Other ingredients used range from razor clams to wild garlic, venison chops, cod tongues to cobnuts. All the recipes are possible with recourse to either a well stocked food hall or foraging from an ancient hedgerow or beach. Information on how to source the more esoteric ingredients is included (make friends with your butcher and fishmonger), but a measure of planning and forethought will be needed to cook many of the recipes. Although the experienced cook will be able to adapt many of the ingredients. Interestingly many of the unloved cuts of meat, such as lamb breast, can be bought very cheaply as there is little demand for them, a bonus in these times of economic uncertainity.
The recipes definitely look flavoursome, but I'm not sure if they all could be considered fuss free. Sometimes, however, taking trouble to cook something out of the ordinary is what makes cooking fun, and I am happy to celebrate the best of seasonal British food and produce.
On my to cook list are purple sprouting broccoli with pickled walnuts and roasted garlic (March), rhubarb tarts (April), stuffed breast of lamb (May), lamb sweetbreads with peas (July), slow cooked pork belly with autumn squash (September) and scallops with black pudding and artichoke puree (December).
on 25 February 2011
So much seems to flourish from Mark Hix these days that there's barely time to reflect on his past achievements (Le Caprice, The Ivy, Scott's, J. Sheekey) before some new addition and accolade are extended. As well as a successful restauranteur and popular `celebrity' on the London scene, he is also an award-winning food writer and this latest addition to the bookshelf, Mark Hix's British Seasonal Food is yet another page-turner to cherish.
The book is an attractive supplement to Hix's repertoire, containing original drawings (Marcus Oakley) and mouth-watering photography (Jason Lowe) to help construct the mood of each dish.
Centred on the simplicity, yet fascinating, subject of British seasonal food, Hix presents an array of recipes to cover the year. Finer details are explored alongside some obvious ingredients, such as the uncomplicated crab sandwich (pg. 120), and everyday - often neglected - ingredients are examined, for instance broccoli, gurnard and the British summer fruit, gooseberry. There are also recipes for classic British plants, such as gooseberry and elderflower meringue pie (pg. 102) and rhubarb tarts (pg. 66).
But for those who already know the Hix stamp then you wont be surprised to learn that it's the British meats that really standout, demonstrating tummy-rumbling recipes that'll have you out chasing a hare or stoning a pigeon instantly. January presents us with roast teal with rosehip jelly (pg. 22), while November holds two of the most teasing dishes in braised short ribs with innis and gunn (pg. 206) and ox cheek and stout pie (pg. 207).
on 7 March 2011
Mark Hix is not only a great chef but also an excellent writer, conjuring images on the page to match those of the beautiful photographs by Jason Lowe. He is passionate about ingredients, particularly those sourced locally or from the wild, and also about seasonality, drawing on his own history of growing up as a child in the country. It is about using the best that Britain can produce - food, wine, cider - in both traditional and newer ways.
The book is full of enticing recipes, often in very unusual combinations - razor clams with wild boar bacon and hedgerow garlic or steamed cockles with Bacchus (an English wine) and samphire. There are wonderful older combinations - gooseberry and elderflower meringue pie, mussels in Somerset cider - and lots to do with foraging - wild garlic and nettle soup, for example.
The book is well laid out in monthly chapters, with great illustrations by Marcus Oakley, and a good index - definitely one to buy as we tighten our belts and look out for interesting and cheaper ways of putting food on the table, in season and using the best sustainable ingredients, without compromising on quality or interest. Mrak Hix gives a definite incentive to go out for a foraging walk in the country or by the sea, and to visit our local farmers' markets to see what is being produced locally.